Wrigley has warned that the planned chewing gum levy in the Irish Republic would be illegal and has hinted at a challenge in the European courts.

The company sent letters to all Irish cabinet ministers - except Martin Cullen, who proposed the measure - claiming the planned 10-15 cent levy is “not an effective way to resolve the gum residue issue” and will be counter-productive.

While the tax is intended to help meet the cost of removing discarded gum from the streets, Wrigleys maintains that when it is introduced users will deliberately throw away their gum, believing they have already paid for the clean-up.

In addition, the company argues that the proposed tax contradicts the government’s anti-smoking drive as gum helps people to give up the habit. And it warns the levy would be illegal under EU law because it would not meet the conditions laid down by Brussels for environmental taxes and charges in the single market.

Cullen insisted he hoped to win government approval shortly for introduction of the levy.