I read a piece yesterday over at Forest Eireann’s site.
There is a letter there, quoted in full from Michael O’Shea of the Irish Heart Foundation to the Irish Government.
Let’s have a look……
To: Alex White TD
Chair, Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform,
Dáil Eireann, Leinster House, Dublin 2.
Subject: Meeting with Finance Public Expenditure and Reform Committee
Dear Deputy White,
I am writing to you in relation to the appearance of the Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) organization before the Finance Public Expenditure and Reform Committee.
We feel it’s important you are aware that this organization is funded by the tobacco industry and represents its views in relation to the smuggling issue, which the industry uses as a self-serving means of trying to restrict tobacco tax increases that reduce smoking prevalence and therefore save lives.
I suppose this is true. A level of income retailers receive is from the profits of tobacco sales, so you could argue that they are financed by the industry. By the same token, the Irish Heart Foundation receives large grants taken from tobacco revenues, so maybe O’Shea should disqualify himself on those grounds also? Of course if the facts add up then the funding should be irrelevant.
Therefore, by discussing the issue of smuggling with RAS, you are not getting the full story – or perhaps any accurate picture of the truth in relation to the smuggling issue.
In addition, RAS do not deal in fact, but merely in opinions which are not evidence based. You may recall that I wrote to you last November with a copy of the Irish Heart Foundation’s report titled Tobacco Taxation, Smuggling and Smoking in Ireland to seek a meeting with you and the opportunity for the Irish Heart Foundation to appear before the Committee together with our partners in the Irish Cancer Society and ASH Ireland to discuss the tobacco tax and smuggling issue.
So RAS deal in opinions and not facts? Coming from an Anti-Tobacco lobbyist this would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. I think this point may get a further mention further on….
This research, carried out by leading UK economic consultancy – Landman Economics – provides compelling evidence that taxation is not a major driver of smuggling in this country. It also supports our contention that a national tobacco control policy combining tax increases, tough anti-smuggling measures and more realistic cessation services, we can massively increase tax income from tobacco, whilst reducing both smuggling and overall smoking rates, with a massive public health benefit.
So an English consultancy firm knows more about Irish smuggling rates that the Irish Customs and Excise? According to Landman “The study shows that a €1 tax increase on a packet of 20 cigarettes would bring in €68 million in extra receipts and a further €28 million in indirect public finance benefits.” while according to Irish Customs and Excise “Increasing the taxation of cigarettes in Ireland no longer carries the combined benefits of better public health and higher revenue for the public finances that would have arisen from such increases in the past. At the very least, these benefits are severely weakened by the substitution of untaxed for taxed consumption.” Now ask yourself which of those two is the most reliable? Which has better access to the facts? Which is the least likely to have any bias? Who commissioned Landman?
This is underlined by what has been achieved in the UK. A decade ago they had similar smoking and smuggling rates to ours. But by introducing a policy of regular tax increases above inflation, with increased investment in tackling smuggling and smoking cessation services, they reduced the number of smokers by 2 million, achieved a 50% decrease in child smokers, cut the smuggling rate from 21% to 12% and secured a major increase in tax receipts. In return for expenditure of £300 million a year the UK Government is receiving£1.7 billion in net annual revenue benefits and an estimated £1.2 billion in extra tax from reduced smuggling activity.
Right. I said this would come up again. The IHF, ICS and ASH deal in facts? Out of interest I checked on the rate of smoking in the 16 to 19 age group in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK the rate has remained remarkably steady singe 2004 at 14%, with a small dip to 12% in 2007 and back up to 14% by 2009. So where the hell is the 50% decrease? I have no reason to believe that any of the other figures are any more honest. A decrease of two million since when? Where do these numbers come from? If RAS deal in opinions and not facts, then our little Anti-Smoking friends deal in tooth fairies, goblins and sheer wishful thinking.
To ensure that your members are given all of the facts in relation to the issue of tobacco smuggling and tax, I would request that the IHF, ICS and ASH Ireland have the opportunity to meet the committee at the earliest opportunity.
I look forward to hearing from you.
CEO, the Irish Heart Foundation
Sadly, this is the kind of utter crap that is forming government opinion these days.