cigaretteUp to €11 million is being taken out of the Waterford economy due to the trade in illicit cigarettes: that’s the claim being made by the company which supplies two popular cigarette brands to stores in the city and county.

Speaking exclusively to The Munster Express, Alec Elliott of JTI Ireland (suppliers of Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut) said that this ongoing trade is having a detrimental effect on the business levels of neighbourhood newsagents.

According to the most recently published illicit trade review (dealing with April to June 2013), almost a quarter (24.5 per cent) of all cigarettes purchased in Waterford are illicitly traded.

Mr Elliott confirmed that JTI have “resources being put into play in Waterford at the moment” given the severity of the problem at hand.

When put to him that public sympathy would be thin on the ground for a business which makes billions each year through selling a product which is detrimental to one’s health, Mr Elliott offered the following reply.

“We’re the first people to say that tobacco is bad for your health and that is carries health risks. But 29 per cent of Irish people smoke – that’s 990,000 people and that figure has remained the same for eight years.

“Despite the smoking ban in bars and the ban in advertising, that figure has remained the same, so surely it’s better to inform the public about the damage illicit cigarette sales are having on the retail sector, on family businesses while also letting smokers know that what you’re buying underground, a ‘business’ being operated by criminal gangs might be cheaper,  you don’t know what exactly you’re smoking either.

“And too has got to be a source of concern.”