A further increase in tobacco taxation would be unfair because it would discriminate against those who can least afford it, say campaigners.
In a pre-budget submission to the Minister for Finance the smokers’ group Forest Ireland has highlighted what it calls the “inherent inequity” in the suggestion (set out in the Programme for Government) that even higher taxes could be levied on smokers in an attempt to offset a lower Universal Social Charge.
Forest Ireland spokesman John Mallon said:
“It’s immoral to continue to penalise a group that already pays well above what is fair and reasonable on a legal consumer product. The suggestion that smokers could be taxed even more in order to ease the financial burden on those who may be better off is outrageous.
“It’s time for government to rethink its policy on tobacco. Raising taxes on tobacco discriminates against those who can least afford it and delivers more customers to criminals who care nothing for their age. It hits legitimate retailers and exposes people of all ages to those involved in criminality.”
Noting that Ireland has the second highest tobacco prices in the European Union (second only to the UK), Forest Ireland’s submission calls for a freeze on tobacco taxation or a reduction in existing rates to bring Ireland into line with the majority of member states.
The group also urged caution in attempting to use taxation to force people to change their habits. According to Mallon:
“In a free society adults should be allowed to make informed choices without undue intervention from big government. Personal responsibility is a vital ingredient in a free society. Using taxation as a blunt instrument to force adults to change their behaviour is an abuse of this important principle.”
For further comment:
John Mallon, Forest Ireland
Mobile 085 117 0943
Full submission is available on request.