Research from the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) shows despite it being a crime to sell cigarettes to people under the age of 18, many children “have an unacceptably high chance” of being sold cigarettes in shops and licensed premises all around the country.
Launched yesterday, the National Tobacco Retail Audit – 2009 Monitoring Report showed more than a third of licensed premises were still selling cigarettes to minors. However, compliance among these premises increased 28% from 37% in 2008 to 65% this year.
Compliance among retailers is also up, from 60% last year to 68% in 2009.
Launching the report, minister for older people and health promotion Áine Brady said the report showed progress was being made in terms of compliance, but more work needed to be done.
“The findings in this report show that continuous progress is being made in the area of retailers’ compliance with sales to minors legislation. Retailers and those in charge of licensed premises must take responsibility and ask all young people for proof of age ID. Active enforcement by environmental health officers also plays a hugely important role in building compliance,” she said.
The OTC said the increase in compliance among licensed premises may have been helped by more disc, card or token-operated machines in use now than in 2008.
Ireland became the first country in Europe to ban in-store tobacco displays and branding on July 1.
The OTC said 98% of shops were complying with the rule. OTC chief executive Éamonn Rossi said, despite the improved rate of compliance, the numbers of shops and pubs selling cigarettes to minors was still at an unacceptable level.
“Best practice shows that very high compliance rates are necessary to impact sales to minors and, ultimately, youth smoking levels. It is therefore important that we strive for 90% plus compliance nationally.
“Canada, a world leader in tobacco control has successfully reduced youth smoking rates among 15 to 17-year-olds to 10%,” he said.
The Irish Cancer Society said the report showed the ban on in-store displays and branding was protecting the health of young people.
Head of advocacy Kathleen O’Meara said figures show more than half of all smokers start before the age of 15, with 83% starting before the age of 18.
“These anti-tobacco measures are the next step after the workplace ban and are necessary to protect young people from the marketing tactics of tobacco companies who use shops and displays to attract young smokers,” she said.
The Irish Cancer Society said lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer with 1,700 people dying in Ireland every year.