Imperial blames Irish cigarette sales slump on tax rise, not smoking ban

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The Independent Online

Cigarette sales in Ireland have fallen by 9.5 per cent since the imposition of a ban on smoking in public places, according to Imperial Tobacco.

Cigarette sales in Ireland have fallen by 9.5 per cent since the imposition of a ban on smoking in public places, according to Imperial Tobacco.

The company, which is behind brands such as John Player, Superkings, Lambert & Butler, Regal and Embassy, attributed the decline in volumes more to the result of tax increases than the effect of the ban.

Gareth Davis, the chief executive of Imperial, said the number of smokers in Ireland had remained constant, at about 29 per cent of the population since the ban was introduced in March. "There have been a number of tax increases in Ireland and this has been the main dynamic in the market," Mr Davis said. "That 29 per cent of the population still smokes brings the conclusion that the ban is not having much of an effect. Smokers continue to smoke and exercise their free will.

He added that a number of pubs had built beer gardens to accommodate smokers. "Some have even parked buses outside for smokers to use," he said.

Mr Davis also said that there was a decline in the number of people from Northern Ireland crossing the border to buy cheaper cigarettes in the Republic.

The biggest impact of the ban, according to Imperial, is on the hospitality trade. It claims that the pub trade has declined by 25 per cent and some 2,000 jobs have been lost in Dublin alone as pubs close.

Despite asserting that a similar ban in Britain would not damage Imperial, Mr Davis said a public smoking ban was unnecessary and against the wishes of the "vast majority of the public". He said: "Common sense should prevail and we should stick to a voluntary approach where provisions can be made for non-smokers." Mr Davis did admit that there was a "risk" to health from passive smoking, but said this was minimal.

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