On March 8 2006, an Irish anti-smoking group issued this press release:
Nearly 40,000 Irish people would quit smoking if the price of twenty cigarettes increased to €6.98. That is according to research done by the EU anti-smoking campaign, ‘HELP – For A Life Without Tobacco’, which shows that a 10% price increase in high income countries results in a 4% reduction in smoker numbers.
Professor Luke Clancy, Chairman of ASH Ireland was quoted in the release, saying:
"If we are serious about becoming a nation of non-smokers, the government has to start paying attention to the data. Price increases stop people smoking and deter young people from starting."
They got their wish, and more. Successive tax rises pushed the price of a pack of 20 well above the €6.98 they demanded. A pack now retails at €8.50. So what is the result?
A THIRD of the Irish population now smokes, a new survey reveals.
A survey of 4,082 people this summer revealed that 33pc of the Irish population had taken up or continued to smoke.
It is the highest smoking rate recorded here in the past 11 years, according to the EU's 'HELP - For A Life Without Tobacco' campaign.
Even those of us who are used to seeing tobacco control policies backfire must be astonished by how badly things are going for the anti-smoking movement in Ireland. This was supposed to be the country that would lead the world in tobacco control. It was the first country to ban smoking in public places. It has the third most expensive cigarettes in Europe. It has a tobacco display ban. And yet, in the space of five years, it has gone from being the jewel in the crown to being a failed state.
Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. 1,500 pubs have closed, smuggling has gone through the roof and the smoking rate has hit an eleven year high (it was at an all-time low before the ban was introduced).
So what is Luke Clancy's response?
"There is no evidence of any decline in smoking in this survey [you can say that again!], indicating a clear need for higher prices of cigarettes"
Elsewhere, Patrick Basham and John Luik discuss whether the Irish fiasco will be repeated in Britain and Pete Robinson says that Ireland's pub crisis supports his prediction that the UK will lose 25% of its pubs by 2012.