Plain Packaging will only serve to deepen illicit tobacco crisis.

Following on from reports yesterday that Customs are now only seizing one in every 25 cigarettes smuggled into this country, packaging stalwart Mike Ridgway says introducing plain packaging here will only further weaken the war on tobacco smuggling.

Customs seized less than one in every 25 cigarettes smuggled into the country last year, as law enforcement agencies struggle to keep up with increasingly sophisticated methods being employed by smugglers.

Latest figures released by the Department of Finance show just 40.8 million cigarettes were confiscated by the State last year. This is less than half the total seized in 2012 and a massive 80 per cent decline on the 2010 figure, when gardai and customs officers seized 178.4 million cigarettes.

Mike Ridgway says plans by the Government to introduce plain-packaging laws on all cigarettes on sale here will not reduce the number of people smoking, but instead enable smugglers to move illegal cigarettes more easily without detection.

Cigarette smuggling costs the Irish economy nearly €700m every year, with massive profits going to criminal gangs and dissident republicans.

Mr Ridgway said: “You can put all the security features you like on legal packs and if at the same time we cut criminals’ costs by giving them just simple pack designs to copy rather than the many that which include enhanced features such as embossing , de-bossing, hot foil stamping and graining then it is the criminals that win and further fuel the illicit trade through unregulated distribution channels,” he said.

In Australia a KPMG study, ‘Illicit Tobacco in Australia’ published on 4th November 2013 has shown that Australia’s illegal tobacco market has risen to around 13% since the introduction of plain packaging.  

The study also found consumption of tobacco has not decreased since plain packaging took effect in December 2012. This was the first time since 2009 that consumption did not decline year over year with more and more turning to the illicit trade and to branded illegal products.

“The fact is that illicit tobacco is growing in the UK and Australia and plain packaging will make the problem worse here in the Republic of Ireland as figures just released by the Department of Finance have just indicated showing a much reduced level of seizure in 2013 compared to previous years,” he said.

 

“The packaging industry fully supports the need for regulation but states that this should not be excessive upon which there is no evidence that it will be effective and where the enforcement authorities are incapable of controlling the illicit trade,” concluded Mr Ridgway. 

Mike Ridgway, Former MD of Weidenhammer UK. Limited and spokesman for 6 leading packaging companies is available for interview.

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