The study was carried out by former Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Donohoe and former Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector, Will O’Reilly, on behalf of tobacco manufacturer, Philip Morris Limited (PML).
The survey – based on test purchases of illicit tobacco from legitimate retailers, markets, car boot sales, street fairs, private addresses and home delivery sales – was carried out over three days last August.
A number of purchases were made from stalls and sellers in the Milk Market including a man selling boxed knife sets, another operating a fishing tackle stall and a man selling DVDs.
Information from a taxi driver led the test purchasers to a private address in Carew Park where a man sold a carton of cigarettes for €50. He said he could supply any amount and various brands and boasted that he supplied most of the pubs in Limerick and that they had his mobile number.
Three of the retail venues where the test purchasers bought cigarettes were butchers. They also purchased a pouch of tobacco from a fish and chip shop.
The test purchasers said they found it very easy to buy illicit tobacco products in Limerick. Over three days there were 18 separate purchases involving 38 illicit tobacco products. This, they said, was “far in excess of what was achieved in Limerick during a previous project in 2013”.
Another survey conducted by the tobacco industry in 2014 examined discarded cigarette packs and found that while a quarter (25.2 per cent) of cigarettes sold across the country was illegal, Limerick had the fifth highest incidence with almost a third (30.3 per cent) of discarded packs being illegal products.
“These surveys confirm our concerns that the incidence of illegal tobacco products is increasing and it has become the ‘crime of choice’ for organised gangs, with its potential for huge profits,” said Mr Donohoe.