A Galway retailer has hit out against the scourge of illegal cigarette selling and is calling for a hard-hitting Garda taskforce to be set up to tackle the problem before it completely cripples the Irish retail trade.
At the first AGM of Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS ), spokerperson and Galway retailer Brendan Holland called for a directed campaign by An Garda Siochana to clampdown on the illegal trade of black market cigarettes in Ireland.
“As Customs are under resourced and under staffed, there is now a huge onus on the Gardaí to have more of a presence in counteracting this issue on a nationwide level. Every week of the year we are getting reports of illegal selling on streets, in markets, and going from door to door. At present there is an ad hoc approach from An Gardaí Síochána with regard to illegal selling of cigarettes and that attitude is crippling the Irish retailer,” he said.
Mr Holland, who runs Holland’s Newsagents in Williamgate Street, further declared that the criminal seems to be “winning the battle against the Galway and Irish retailer” who are heavily regulated and pay high levels of tax but get no protection.
“The black market is now the third biggest tobacco trade in Ireland and the statistics show that this is increasing. We are an island nation that has an understaffed customs services, meaning that the contraband and counterfeit cigarettes are always going to get through, so the gardai have to have a great emphasis on a nationwide campaign. A specially designated taskforce is the only logical step to successfully winning the war against the criminal. The State is losing half a billion every year. We the retailers lost almost €700 million in 2009 from illegal selling,” said Mr Holland, who added that action must be taken before it is too late.
According to RAS tobacco is an important part of a retailer’s income and on average constitutes 30 per cent of overall turnover. A RAS survey found that 94 per cent of its members described tobacco sales as being “vital” to their shop and one in two said that redundancies were going to be issued if the high trend in smuggling continued.
RAS was established in June 2009 with the view of becoming the voice of the tobacco retailers of Ireland in the fight against illicit trade of cigarettes. RAS is run by an executive committee made up of 10 retailers spread across the country and has almost 3,000 members.