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New Law Sparks Crisis for Shop Employees in Ireland

Dublin: A contentious proposal from the Department of Health regarding the sale of tobacco products, notably cigarettes, is drawing criticism in Ireland.

The proposal, spearheaded by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, seeks to elevate the legal age for selling tobacco products from 18 to 21. This initiative, aimed at curbing the prevalence of smoking in Ireland, is encountering opposition, particularly from retail associations, who argue that it would be impractical and confusing for shop and supermarket employees. They highlight the lack of consultation prior to the proposal’s introduction.

While Prime Minister Simon Harris stands in support of Health Minister Donnelly, Deputy Prime Minister Micheál Martin has expressed dissent, advocating for alternative measures to tackle youth smoking.

Despite previous declines, recent statistics from Healthy Ireland suggest that the prevalence of smoking has plateaued since 2021, with concerns persisting regarding the efficacy of current measures.

Retailers, represented by Vincent Jennings, CEO of the Convenience Stores and News Agents Association (CSNA), anticipate significant challenges should the proposed law be enacted. They argue that the implementation would pose safety risks to employees and adversely impact small businesses, exacerbating existing issues of crime and violence against staff.

CSNA emphasises that age verification of buyers should be prioritised over age restrictions for sellers, as imposing the latter would jeopardise the livelihoods of many, including student employees.

Additionally, Jennings calls for intensified efforts to combat cigarette smuggling, citing Revenue’s findings that a substantial portion of cigarettes sold in Ireland last year were untaxed or illicit, underscoring the severity of the issue.

Estimates suggest that smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke contribute to approximately 6,000 deaths annually in Ireland, primarily due to cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. The harmful effects of cigarettes, containing over 4,000 toxic chemicals, remain a pressing public health concern.

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