Smokers are set to be hit with further hikes in the price of cigarettes and tobacco in the Budget — but the pint will be left alone.
The Star can reveal that a sugar tax will also be introduced when Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announces Budget 2018 next week — in an attempt by the Government to combat the twin health threats of obesity and diabetes.
However, insiders say Minister Donohoe is unlikely to touch the price of the pint, as the Government continues to debate future plans for the minimum pricing of alcohol.
But he will still look to recoup extra money from the old reliables, by slapping an extra 50 cent on the price of a packet of cigarettes.
It will means the average price of a packet of 20 fags will increase to up to e11.50, making Ireland the most expensive country in Europe alongside Norway in which to buy them.
A source told The Star:
“It is now an annual tradition for cigarettes to get hit with an increase as they are always the easy option.
“But the minister is not expected to go near the price of a pint.
"There is still a lot of discussion around the minimum pricing of alcohol, so that will be an issue for the future.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently revealed he wanted to see a sugar tax on fizzy drinks and sweets.
Studies have shown that one in four Irish children are overweight, while the country has one of the worst child obesity rates in Europe.
Speaking about the issue at the recent Fine Gael think-in, Mr Varadkar said:
“I’m a long-time supporter of the sugar tax and I want to see that introduced next year, but I’m not in a position to get into details.”
However, sources say that is almost certain the sugar tax will be in the budget.
“The sugar tax is one issue that this Government has been keen to move on and this budget will see them do that.”
Meanwhile, sources say Minister Donohoe has around e300 million for tax cuts and new spending in the budget.
The Minister has already hinted at tax cuts for middle-income earners, while cuts may also be made to the Universal Social Charge (USC).
Pensioners are likely to get an increase in their State pensions, while the hospitality sector could get a boost with a cut to VAT.
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