Smokers in the Irish Republic will be paying around IR£6 for a packet of 20 cigarettes within four years if a recommendation from a parliamentary committee, backed by health minister Michael Martin, is accepted by government. In a bid to discourage smoking, the all-party committee is pressing for a 50p-a-year increase on a packet of 20 for the next four years. The money raised, it says, should be used to fund two campaigns, one targeted at youth and the other at adults. The minister's support is conditional on employers and trade unions agreeing to exclude tobacco increases from the Consumer Price Index. Otherwise, he warns, the huge price hikes would push up the inflation rate and fuel claims for pay rises. The committee also recommends: - Identity cards for young adults seeking to buy cigarettes - Cigarette vending machines to be outlawed - A smoking ban in all pubs - Larger health warnings on packets, backed by a threat of criminal prosecution. Retailers are already feeling the effects of Martin's anti-smoking drive, with heavy fines for underage sales (the legal limit has been raised to 18), close monitoring by health inspectors and a ban on all point-of-sale tobacco advertising or promotion. Tobacco companies are warning that "a strategy of making cigarettes too expensive to buy" won't work. If prices escalate, said a spokesman, smuggled products will be on offer instead and the government will end up losing its tax revenue. {{NEWS }}