Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 27 February, 1997
Written Answers. - Illegal Sale of Tobacco.
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
66. Mr. O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Justice the steps, if any, she intends to take with a view to preventing the illegal sale of tobacco in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5409/97]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen) Nora Owen
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I am informed by the Garda authorities that on 9 December 1996, Operation Nicotine was established to co-ordinate the Garda and customs response to the illegal sale of tobacco in Dublin and other parts of the country. This operation is targeting the main street sellers and importers of tobacco products. A number of joint operations on streets, and searches of private houses and warehouses, have been carried out and are ongoing. Since the commencement of the operation, to mid-February 1997, a total of 5,006 packets of cigarettes and 504 packets of tobacco with an estimated value of £11,000 has been seized by the Garda. The operation has been very successful to date, and will continue.
I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who have statutory responsibility for the prevention of the illegal importation and sale in the State of unstamped tobacco products, that action is being taken in a number of ways.
Customs officers and the gardaí are working in close co-operation in a series of joint operations against street selling. In close co-operation with other EU member states, investigations are continuing in an effort to trace the source of the illegal products feeding into this illicit trade and to intercept them on importation.
The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that overall about 24 million cigarettes and 7,309 kilos of roll-your-own tobacco have been seized since January 1993 at import points and  from distributors and street traders. As a result there has been an increased number of prosecutions both for smuggling and illegal selling offences.
The adequacy of the existing legal provisions to deal with this particular problem is being reviewed. The Minister for Finance has recently announced that a range of measures are being considered in the context of this year's Finance Bill. These include increased penalties for illegal selling and increased powers to Revenue officers and the Garda to deal with offenders. These proposals are currently being considered by my Department.
Dáil Éireann 475 Written Answers. Illegal Sale of Tobacco.