Thursday, January 22, 2009

Expensive Habit to Kick

Recession, recession - it’s enough to bring on widescale depression.

That’s why it was a healthy change to hear from Labour’s Ireland East candidate for the European elections raise a subject close to the heart of many this New Year - smoking and the battle to stop.

Giving up smoking is an expensive business, according to Nessa Childers. And if you are planning to ditch the weed, travel north as the patches are far cheaper there.

Nessa has described this price differencial for nicotine replacement products as truly shocking - and like all great Irish rip offs, it is.

“A friend of mine was recently in Northern Ireland and purchased a pack of nicotine replacement gum for £13.99. The following day he went into a shop in the Republic where the same product cost €27.99,” she tells us.

This is profiteering plain and simple, she says, there is no justification for such a large difference in price.

This is because sterling and euro are almost at parity and there are no additional taxes on most nicotine replacement products.

“This is money that a lot of people believe they cannot afford, even though in the long-run they will be financially and physically much better-off if they take the treatment.”

“Smokers almost inevitably end up becoming a major draw on the public purse, requiring treatment for a whole range of tobacco-related illnesses and diseases.”

“Any measure that reduces the number of smokers will reduce long term costs to the health services, so it is in all of our interests. The State should therefore do as much as possible to promote these products by making them much more affordable than they currently are.”

Nessa wants the Government to scrap the VAT (21.5%) on nicotine replacement patches and make them more affordable to people who want to give up smoking.

If there was ever a blatant, honest-to-goodness reason to cut VAT, this is surely it.

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