HSE could close head shops over illegal sale of tobacco
HEAD shops can be shut down using existing legislation if they sell tobacco products -- because just 10 are registered to do so.
The revelation came as a Dublin shop was slammed for offering a "free joint" with every order worth more than €50.
The Government is looking at ways to tackle the sale of legal highs, including the notorious mephedrone, which will be banned under a list currently being drawn up by the Department of Health.
But the chairman of the Dublin City Council's policing committee said that head shops could be shut down under legislation already in place, if they are found to be illegally selling tobacco.
Gerry Breen, a Fine Gael councillor, said: "It is an offence to sell tobacco products without first registering with the Office of Tobacco Control.
"To date only 10 head shops are registered. It is up to the HSE to take a prosecution against a retailer for selling tobacco products without first being registered with the Office of Tobacco Control. There is no account of any prosecution of any head shop."
The illegal drug cannabis is often mixed with tobacco before being smoked in roll-up "joints".
However, the "joints" sold in head shops do not contain cannabis but a legal substitute. Neither do they necessarily contain tobacco.
Mr Breen also criticised a promotion being run on the 'Nirvana' head shop's website offering a "free joint with every order over €50".
He queried whether the sale or promotion of "joints" or other smoking paraphernalia constituted a breach of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and Amendment 2004.
Head shops sell legal preparations that can be used as alternatives to illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, and LSD.
The owner of the Nirvana chain, Jim Bellamy, claimed in February that one of his stores on Dublin's Capel Street was burnt down because of negative publicity surrounding the sale of legal highs.
The Government has announced plans to ban several substances sold in head shops, which will come into effect in June.
Community Affairs Minister Pat Carey told the Dail that the Government was determined to stop head shops from operating.
"These shops have almost spun out of control in a short space of time," he said.
"There are side effects, apart from the obvious ones of anti-social behaviour and damage to health and society. There is no doubt that many of those products, legal and otherwise, are gateways to the use of other drugs.
"Let no one be under any illusion but that this industry is highly organised and very determined. We will have to proceed with great care."