Retailers Against Smuggling

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Background

Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) lobbies for action on tobacco and fuel smuggling citing the impact on retailers in the Republic of Ireland. It was set up in June 2009 and is based in Dublin. It has links to the tobacco industry.

Staff

The following staff are listed on the organisation’s website

  • Benny Gilsenan; national spokesman. Gilsenan is listed as the “responsible person” on the organisation’s entry on the government lobbying register.[1] and is the person most commonly quoted in press reports.[2] Gilsenan is described as having 40 years’ experience in the grocery trade.
  • William Hanley, National Spokesman. Described as being involved in retail since he left school in 1988.
  • Stephen Daly, Spokesman. Runs a newsagents with his wife in Galway.
  • Marcella O’Neill, Spokeman (sic). Runs a business in Limerick with her sister.

Campaigns on Tax and Illicit Trade

RAS campaigns not just on tobacco smuggling, but also alcohol, fuel and other smuggled items. A spokesperson said in July 2019: “Tobacco is just one element because it is the largest smuggled product in the country.[3]

However tobacco does appear to be the overriding focus of its attention. Its website lists four aims and a ten-point action plan virtually all of which relate to tobacco smuggling, taxation or regulation. It echoes industry arguments in its first demand: “A moratorium on further excise increases until such increases can be proven not to encourage smuggling as a result of price differentials.”[4] RAS regularly lobbies against rises in tobacco duty. In 2018, Gilsenan described a 50% in increase in duty on a pack of cigarettes as “another slap in the face to retailers that have been compliant with every decision made by this government”.[5] The government’s lobby register records 19 different lobbying events from 21 January 2016 to 21 May 2019 involving RAS. The majority have occurred around the setting of the budget.[1]

Links to Tobacco Companies

RAS says it has 3,000 members in the retail sector in the Republic of Ireland and 15 corporate sponsors.[4] One of its 15 corporate supporters is the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee (ITMAC).[4] The ITMAC committee is made up of British American Tobacco (BAT trades as P.J. Carroll & Company Limited in Ireland), Japan Tobacco International (JTI Ireland Limited,formerly Gallaher (Dublin) Limited) and Imperial Tobacco (John Player & Sons Limited)..[6] In July 2019, a spokesperson for RAS refused to disclose the level of funding provided by ITMAC.[3]

Other Tobacco Links

Vape Business Ireland

The registered address of RAS is 13, Merrion Square in Dublin, which is also the address of Vape Business Ireland (VBI). That organisation was set up by vaping organisations on 20 May 2016 after the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive: “to ensure we are properly represented in the debate on the regulation of vaping products”[7] Members of VBI include tobacco companies and their subsidiaries: BAT, Imperial, and Philip Morris International (PMI). Another member is the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN), previously the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, a long-time ally of the tobacco industry. VBI is a partner of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) which was set up in September 2016 to support the vaping industry. It has JTI, BAT and PMI as members, as well as independent e-cigarette companies.

Instinctif Partners

A report in the Sunday Business Post in July 2019, quoted Olivia Buckley, from PR firm Instinctif Partners, as spokesperson for RAS.[3] Prior to working for Instinctif, Buckley was Director of Communications at the Irish Tax Institute which represents chartered tax advisors.[8] She was also press secretary for Fianna Fail party in Ireland between March 2003 and Sept 2007 when it was in government and ran for election in 2019 in the Dundrum seat, but was not successful.[9][10] Instinctif has worked with several tobacco and e-cigarette industries. That includes helping Imperial Tobacco set up a so-called ‘grassroots’ opposition to European e-cigarette regulations. (See Instinctif Partners.)

Another of its clients is Vape Business Ireland.[11]. Instinctif registered the VBI web site.[12]

TobaccoTactics Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Lobbying Register, Retailers Against Smuggling, undated, accessed July 2019
  2. See for instance: Unknown, Local retailer ‘staggered’ by smuggling surge, Dublin People, 27 May, 2019, accessed July 2019. A search on Google for news reports featuring Retailers Against Smuggling returns 174 examples, including Benny Gilsena returns 108 examples.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 B. Whyte, Irish retailers lobby group accused of cosying up to big tobacco, Sunday Business Post, paywall, 28 July 2019, accessed July 2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 RAS, website, undated, accessed July 2019
  5. C.Pope, Budget 2019: Cigarettes hit with 50 cent increase but fuel and alcohol spared, The Irish Times, 9 October 2018, accessed July 2019
  6. ITMAC, About us, website, undated, accessed July 2019
  7. VBI, [1], undated, accessed April 2019
  8. LinkedIn, Olivia Buckley, undated, accessed July 2019
  9. F.Kelly, https://web.archive.org/web/20190730155027/https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/former-bertie-ahern-spokeswoman-set-to-stand-for-ff-in-dublin-constituency-1.3718877 Former Bertie Ahern spokeswoman set to stand for FF in Dublin constituency], The Irish Times, 4 December 2018, accessed July 2019
  10. C.Pope, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council: Remarkable success for Green Party, The Irish Times, 30 May 2019, accessed July 2019
  11. Lobby Register, Vape Business Ireland, undated, accessed July 2019
  12. Whois, Vape Business Ireland, undated, accessed July 2019