DUBLIN: Australia has witnessed a 25 percent increase in cigarette smuggling in the country which has made retailers worried about the situation.
Benny Gilsenan, a retailer, issued the warning on foot of a recent report that found a near 25 per cent increase in cigarette smuggling in Australia.
The increase follows the introduction of plain packaging on cigarette packs by the Australian government, a move set to be copied here in Ireland.
“This report shows that there has been a sharp rise in smuggling in Australia since plain packaging was introduced,” said Gilsenan, who is also spokesman for Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS).
“It appears to confirm our worst fears about what happens when you make life too easy for criminal gangs.”
The report, published by KPMG on behalf of Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial, shows that in 2012, illicit tobacco made up 11.5 per cent of the Australian market.
However, by mid 2014 after plain packaging had been introduced it had increased to 14.3 per cent.
Retailers fear a similar increase in black market cigarettes here if plain packaging is introduced.
“Independent retailers have already had their business decimated by the black market and this news from Australia suggests that we will face a further hit from criminal gangs if plain packaging comes in here,” Gilsenan warned.
“The Government has offered no explanation on how it plans to tackle the problem.”
Retailers Against Smuggling was set up in 2009 to help retailers fight against illicit tobacco trade. It represents almost 3,000 independent retailers across the country.
As well as other measures, RAS calls for minimum fines for cigarette smugglers, extra funding for customs and severe penalties for those who sell tobacco to children.