Release date: 27 March 2006
The Irish Family Planning Association has called on the Minister for Finance to take a leaf out of Gordon Brown’s book and reduce the level of tax on condom sales in Ireland. Last week’s budget in Britain saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer reduce the level of VAT on condoms from 17.5% down to 5%.
According to Rosie Toner of the IFPA, the level of Vat on condom sales in Ireland is one of the highest in Europe. “Condoms carry the highest standard rate of VAT at 21%. Given that we are now experiencing huge increases in levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), this tax should be reduced – or even dropped – in the next budget.
“Increased use of condoms would take pressure off our health service, with less people having to present themselves for STI testing and treatment. Because of the rise in STI cases, screening services in our major hospitals are under enormous strain. In some cases, people are being forced to wait for six weeks to secure a screening appointment.
Notifiable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increased by 12.1% in 2004 when compared with 2003, according to the latest available figures released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The most commonly notified STIs in 2004 were ano-genital warts, genital chlamydia infection and non-specific urethritis.
“By taking a small hit in reducing VAT on condoms, the Minister for Finance could make significant savings in the overall health budget if less people were presenting with STIs.”
Depending on variety, many boxes of 12 condoms cost over €20. “For someone on a low income, we are talking a lot of money and this is part of the reason for their under use. While condoms from abroad can be purchased on the internet at a saving, many younger people who are sexually active don’t have credit cards to enable them make internet purchases. Some young people are reluctant to have condoms delivered in the post to their home.
“Taking a sensible and practical step to make condoms an ‘essential’ item rather than a ‘luxury’ item would be an important health initiative,” said Rosie Toner.