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August 22nd, 2015:

Illegal cigarettes in Blackpool, Cork

source: dan linehan, irish examiner

Mr O’Reilly said there was a far higher percentage of potentially lethal illegal whites in Ireland than in Britain. He said there was some evidence to show some of these cigarettes smuggled into Ireland were later exported to Britain.

Mr Donohoe said the illegal whites were being smuggled into Ireland in containers through ports such as Dublin, Ringaskiddy, and Rosslare. It is believed the gangs are shipping in containers which each contain illegal cigarettes with a street value of €1m.

The profits are so lucrative that drug dealing gangs are increasingly turning to this illicit trade, especially as the penalties if caught are miniscule. A person found with more than €10,000 in drugs could face up to 14 years in jail. If it was €10,000 of illegal cigarettes or even more, they would probably get a fine. A jail sentence is extremely rare for cigarette smuggling.

The undercover team put all the contraband they get into evidence bags and the information they have gained during the course of their work, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers, will be passed onto the gardaí.

It is believed legitimate cigarette manufacturers, who have seen their profits tumble as a result of smuggling, will use evidence gathered by the team to lobby the Government for increased penalties for those caught with illicit cigarettes.

While they have a vested interest in a crackdown on such activity, they can also argue with some authority about the greater health risk of smoking illegal whites.

They will also point out the ease at which criminal gangs can make serious money to further their own activities and the knock-on cost this has to society, coupled with the huge loss of revenue to the State.

Arsenic and lead found in illegal tobacco

Sean O’Riordan

Cigarettes containing high levels of asbestos, lead, arsenic, traces of rat poison and human excrement are flooding Ireland as dissidents and highly organised crime gangs make vast profits buying them for as little as 20c a packet.(which is more than Big T makes them for).

The mark-up is huge, with a packet of 20 of what are known as ‘illegal whites’ selling on the streets for anything between €4 and €6.

The illegal whites are cigarettes with fictional brand names such as Excellence, Palace, President, CK, Gin, Ling, and M&G and are being manufactured in the United Arab Emirates, China, and Eastern Europe.

An operation carried out by former policemen in Cork in recent days showed the city awash with the illegal whites which were purchased from Asian, Irish, and Nigerian people. The team of four, which travelled from Britain, spent just a few hours walking around the city talking to people on the street before being able to carry out a number of purchases from different sellers, which included one shop in the city centre. The Irish Examiner accompanied the team on the operation.

They were led by former Garda Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Donohoe and ex-Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Will O’Reilly. They have been working on behalf of Philip Morris International — which manufactures such brands as Marlboro and L&M — to get a snapshot of the rapidly growing illegal market.

Mr Donohoe said the team carried out test purchases in a number of other areas in the country in recent months and determined that 70%- 80% of all the illegal tobacco they have uncovered is counterfeit (hence 20-30% were genuine smuggled product showing the tobacco companies deliberately do not control their General Cargo supply chains)

and potentially very dangerous to people’s health (just like the real thing) . The remaining tobacco purchased was contraband — genuine brands of cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco smuggled into the country without duty being paid. The former senior garda said Irish Customs believes the tax loss to the exchequer per year is around €250m, but Grant Thornton has put it as high as €500m.

Raise legal age for tobacco purchases

The healthiest and easiest way to deal with addiction is to not become addicted, a simple truth that finally should become the foundation of law and policy regarding tobacco.

In March, the Institute of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health released a convincing study on how the nation could drive down nicotine addiction and save millions of lives, at no cost to the government. According to the IM, raising the legal age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 would result in 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer and 250,000 fewer premature deaths from all smoking-caused diseases for people born between 2000 and 2019. And, it would eliminate the health care and related costs that would accrue from those diseases.

It is well-documented that almost all smokers take up the habit and become addicted before they are 21. The IM study found that raising the legal age to 21 would reduce the overall smoking rate within the population by 12 percent, whereas raising the age to 19 would reduce the overall rate by only 3 percent.

The Food and Drug Administration commissioned the study but it does not have the authority to set a legal purchase age nationwide.

That is the purview of state and local governments. Four states have set the age at 19. New York City raised the age to 21 last year; Hawaii did so this year and California is expected to follow suit.

Needham, Massachusetts raised the age to 21 in 2005. According to a study in the journal Tobacco Control, smoking in Needham among those younger than 18 subsequently declined from 13 percent to just 7 percent, while smoking by people in that age group in nearby communities, where the legal age remained 18, declined only from 15 percent to 12 percent.

Although 18-year-olds are adults who can vote, join the military, drive, work at dangerous jobs and so on, they may not buy alcoholic beverages until they turn 21. Over the long haul, tobacco use is even more dangerous than drinking. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are the only consumer products that are lethal when used as intended by the manufacturers.

The state Legislature should begin the process of raising the legal age to 21.

12th Annual Asia-Pacific Tax Forum

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NGO questions Japan Tobacco’s claim

By Grace Ting-ann Lee, Special to the China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The John Tung Foundation (董氏基金會) has questioned Japan Tobacco Inc. (傑太日煙) about its claims of injecting over NT$9 billion in foreign capital into a tobacco plant being built in Greater Tainan.

In a press conference yesterday, the nongovernmental organization stated that “it is all a lie and the money is coming from Taiwan citizens’ pockets.”

Japan Tobacco raised the price on 21 kinds of Japanese cigarette brands on Wednesday by NT$5 to NT$10 per pack. The NGO said that the money earned by the price increase is meant to pay for the construction of a NT$9 billion tobacco plant.

“There was no foreign capital all along,” said John Tung Foundation CEO Yao Si-yuan (姚思遠). “In other words, Taiwan people are establishing tobacco plants that harm our own people.”

“Many people have complained that the health costs around cigarettes is growing gradually, yet the government has not adjusted taxes on cigarettes since 2009,” said Lin Ching-li (林清美), a member of the foundation, stating that the Japan Tobacco has raised prices several times, by NT$10 to NT$30 per pack each time.

While NGOs have demanded that the government stop the plant’s construction, the Greater Tainan government has claimed that it would help the local economy.

Moreover, the construction is already halfway completed and under the Investment Agreement between Taiwan and Japan (台日投資協議), local authorities cannot halt construction, the Greater Tainan government said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare also stated that the cigarettes are for export and will not affect the health of people in Taiwan.

“However, there is no provision that the cigarettes produced can only be exported,” Yao said.

With over 35 percent of market share in Taiwan, the John Tung Foundation stated that about 700 million packs of Japan Tobacco products are sold in Taiwan per year. Through price hikes and the tariff saved due to the investment agreement, Japan Tobacco earns over NT$13 billion from Taiwan every year, “and this does not include other tax concessions, which cannot be counted.”

The foundation pointed out that the Investment Agreement between Taiwan and Japan is one-sided with regard to tobacco production. Japanese companies can invest in Taiwan while Japan remains closed to Taiwan, Yao said.

“Investment agreements between nations should be equal … (The inequality) shows that our government neglects the health of people and tobacco hazard prevention,” Yao said.

The NGO said that it hopes that the government will stop the construction immediately.

“According to the Investment Agreement between Taiwan and Japan, if there are more important public policies to achieve, the government can choose to expropriate (projects) under due process, if there is a legal public purpose and if there is compensation,” Yao said.

”There is a price to pay,” Yao added, “but if you are not willing to pay it, it would cost you much more in the future.”