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Cigarette sales see 40pc drop in a year

Cigarette sales in shops have fallen 40pc in a year after in-store tobacco ads were banned, retailers claimed today.

One year after point-of-sale displays were outlawed, manufacturers and retailers claimed more people were smoking and the black market was meeting demand as over-the-counter sales drop.

Health campaigners from the Irish Cancer Society and Ash Ireland disputed the figures and rejected suggestions an ad ban was to blame for increased smuggling.

Barry Gilsenan from Retailers Against Smuggling said the year-old order had normalised criminal trade in contraband tobacco, which now accounts for a quarter of all cigarettes in the country.

"We are not looking to promote the sale of cigarettes; tobacco is a legal product and an absolutely vital aspect of our income. But it is worrying to see that criminals are now targeting shopkeepers to sell illegal goods," he said.

The group claimed one in five of its members surveyed had been offered contraband and/or counterfeit tobacco to sell in their shops.

Kathleen O'Meara, head of advocacy with the Irish Cancer Society, said the claim that sales were down 40pc was extraordinary.

"There is no link between point-of-sale regulation and smuggling and smoking," she said.

Professor Luke Clancy, ASH Ireland, also disputed the retailers' figures.

"Do they have evidence of the smuggling?" he asked. "They should put their money there to try and reduce smuggling."