Cigarette vending machine operators are prepared to mount a Supreme Court challenge against the government’s plans to ban the machines by 2025.
The industry has warned that 60 family-owned businesses and 145 jobs are at risk because of the government’s strategy to make Ireland tobacco free within nine years.
Minister for Health Simon Harris reiterated his commitment to that strategy last week and confirmed that legislation is being drafted to ban the vending machines. There are 6,000 such machines across the country, primarily in bars and hotels.
John Mallon, spokesman for the smokers’ group Forest Ireland, said, “Making what is a legal product difficult to source serves only to re-direct decent smokers to the alternative of significantly cheaper, smuggled tobacco.”
“Irrespective of how desperately some would want it to be otherwise, smokers still have a right to consume a legal product in a democratic country without undue interference.”
James Walsh, director of Tobaccoland, which has 23 staff and 1,500 vending machines, said that the industry is prepared to go to the Supreme Court to challenge any ban that would effectively shut down their businesses.
However, Professor Luke Clancy, the director general of the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society, said a tobacco-free Ireland will not happen by 2025 if more is not done, and that vending machines are an important step.
“Vending machines came at a time when shops were closed early when there was no access and when many more people were smoking.
"Remember we’re not talking about some sort of harmless product, we’re talking about something that kills, in this country, nearly 5,000 people a year, and we hear that there may be 20 jobs lost,” he said.