Retail outlets in Waterford and Kilkenny are amongst eight across the country currently being investigated by the Revenue for selling counterfeit cigarettes.

The locally-based retailers were recently discovered to be selling the cigarettes display fake Irish tax stamps during a series of ‘test purchases’ by officers of the Revenue Commissioners.

Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the consumers’ association, has expressed concern that such cigarettes have ‘now penetrated the retail sector when it was always a predominantly black-market issue’. The other retailers being investigated are in Cork, Louth and Longford and these eight investigations exclude separate probes into other smuggled cigarettes in markets and by street sellers.

The loss to the exchequer on a standard pack of cigarettes, retailing at €8.45, is €6.71. So far the largest cache of counterfeit cigarettes found in one shop has been 1,500. Irish brands such as John Player are now being targeted, as well as other brands such as Superkings. Smugglers are believed to be using the postal service to bring in the cigarettes.

The investigations come after customs officers two weeks ago seized more than eight million cigarettes in an anti-smuggling operation at Dublin Port with an estimated value of €3.5m.

The price of a pack of 20 cigarettes is considerably higher here than in other European countries, so Ireland is one of the cigarette smugglers’ main targets.