Ierland wordt steeds aangehaald als HET succesverhaal voor de effectiviteit van rookverboden. Wat is daar van waar?
Er werd door anti-rokenorganisaties voorspeld dat een rookverbod het aantal rokers en het gebruik van tabak zou doen afnemen. De Ierse overheid trapte daar in. Want eerder het tegenovergestelde lijkt het geval: verkopen, smokkel en het percentage jeugdige rokers namen toe in dat land sinds het rookverbod van kracht werd.
In maart van dit jaar werd van bijna van elke passagier die in Dublin landde de bagage in beslag genomen omdat die vol zat met goedkope sigaretten. Het totale bedrag aan in beslag genomen tabaksproducten is opgelopen tot 2,7 miljoen Euro. Volgens uitgangspunten van de Ierse douane wordt maar 10% van de smokkel daadwerkelijk gepakt. De schade voor de Ierse schatkist wordt geschat op plm. 2,5 miljoen Euro per jaar.
Ondertussen berichten de tabaksfabrikanten in Ierland een omzetstijging van 20%, geheel in tegenstelling tot de rest van Europa waar de omzet daalt. En het aantal tieners tussen 15 en 17 jaar dat zegt te roken is tussen 2002 en 2007 gestegen van 20% naar 25%.
Een waar succes. Maar voor wie?
They said the smoking ban would lead to a drop in cigarette consumption in Ireland, but recent figures show the exact opposite is happening. Cigarette manufacturers and smugglers have seen a huge boom in business since the smoking ban was introduced.
Two weeks ago almost every single passenger on a flight arriving at Dublin Airport had their baggage confiscated by customs officers. Contained in the baggage were cigarettes the passengers were attempting to smuggle into Ireland to the value of almost €500,000. It is believed the plane load of smugglers were working for an organised Eastern European crime syndicate. The seizure brings to €2.7 million the value of cigarettes seized at Dublin Airport so far this year. Earlier in the month customs officers at Rosslare Port made their biggest seizure of the year when over €300,000 worth of cigarettes were found concealed beneath a false floor of a refrigerated truck. The potential loss of revenue to the government from these seizures is almost €2.5 million
Custom officers use the general rule of thumb that they only manage to intercept at most 10% of smuggled contraband. From figures so far released this year this indicates that around €30 million worth of cigarettes are smuggled into Ireland every quarter making it an industry worth in access of one billion euro annually with a loss amounting in the region of a billion euro to the Irish exchequer.
Despite the huge upsurge in cigarette smuggling and numbers of Irish going abroad on ‘smoking excursions’ to stock up on legally purchased cigarettes to avoid paying for excessively priced ones at home, tobacco manufacturers are continuing to report growth in Irish sales. Gallahers who account for half the Irish market reported a 0.2 increase in sales for Ireland last year at a time it saw a general decrease in sales for the rest of Europe.
Prior to the smoking ban, Ireland in line with trends elsewhere had seen a downward spiral in cigarette consumption. Whereas this trend has continued downward in the rest of Europe, Ireland has seen a reversal since the imposition of the ban which also heralded a regime of hard hitting multi million euro anti smoking campaigns, draconian fines and punishments for breaches of anti smoking laws. The smoking ban we were told would lead to a decrease in cigarette consumption and be of great benefit to the health of the nation. It has certainly been extremely healthy for the bank accounts of share holders in Ireland’s tobacco companies and gangs engaged in smuggling.
Unable to advertise to their target market or promote their products through sponsorship cigarette companies had watched helplessly as profits and sales decreased year on year as western consumers were persuaded to turn their backs on tobacco. How delighted they must now be to see this trend reversed in Ireland thanks to a draconian smoking ban backed up with jackboot tactics and a multi million euro hysterical anti smoking media campaign demanding people stop smoking. The proponents of the smoking ban and attendant campaigns pat themselves on the back claiming a great success. A great success for who exactly ? A success certainly for the cigarette barons be they manufacturers or smugglers as demand in Ireland has increased against international trends so much so it has spawned a smuggling industry now worth a Billion Euro a year.
The anti smoking campaigners claim smoking is more addictive than heroin. Yet they peruse prohibition and dictatorial policies guaranteed to make it more attractive especially to one group in particular, the young. A telling statistics to have emerged is that in 2002 surveys showed that 20% of teenagers aged 15-17 in Ireland classed themselves as smokers. This figure in 2007 has now risen to almost 25%. The tobacco makers and smugglers can sleep sound in the knowledge demand will not be decreasing any decade soon for their product in the smoke ban nation of Ireland.