Concern over cigarette display ban
A ban on cigarette displays in Northern Ireland shops would increase the number of smokers buying on the black market, it has been claimed.
Three-quarters of corner shopkeepers believed putting tobacco under the counter will make smokers feel like they are doing something illegal, a survey for the Tobacco Retailers' Alliance said.
Stormont Health Minister Michael McGimpsey is considering legislation to make it illegal to display cigarettes. And health campaigners believe advertising helps manufacturers recruit the addicts of tomorrow.
But Ballymena retailer John McKeown warned: "If they think that they may as well get it from a smuggler who sells it at half the price I can."
The Assembly has approved the ban on the display. Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he planned to bring the ban, which he hoped would save lives, into force late this year.
But Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politicians argued that it should be delayed until 2013 in order to give retailers the time to fund changes to their premises.
According to the survey by the tobacco retailers' lobby group, 75% of corner shopkeepers are aware of smuggled tobacco sold in their area. Half said they knew of racketeers supplying underage smokers.
The black market in smuggled and counterfeit tobacco already loses the UK Treasury £11 million each day and deprives legitimate businesses of trade.
Mr McKeown added: "What's most annoying about the proposed display ban is that it has been proved not to work. In Canada where there has been a ban for some time, youth smoking has gone up rather than down since the ban. This would seem to indicate that display bans do not reduce youth smoking and, that being the case, there must surely be some other, better way to achieve the reduction.
"It's through friends or family that the majority of underage smokers get their tobacco so if the government made it a crime for people over 18 to buy tobacco to give to those under 18, while at the same time putting more focus on tackling tobacco smuggling, youth smoking rates would be reduced."