Small Business Column: Tobacco firms to pay the price

Kehlan Kirwan looks at plans for a new system of fees for tobacco retailers and asks why many small businesses feel there is still a gap between the Government’s talk on SMEs and its policies.

Small Business Column: Tobacco firms to pay the price

This week on the Small Business Show one of the news topics up for discussion was the proposal from Health Minister James Reilly, which indicates tobacco retailers may soon be liable to pay monies directly to the Department of Health if they wish sell tobacco.

Businesses who sell tobacco already pay fees to Tobacco Control and will be asked to pay another €500 to €1,000 directly to the Department of Health. It’s that kind of thinking which frustrates businesses no end.

There is a culture among policymakers, both nationally and locally, which suggests that businesses are an endless pit of money to dip into when they feel like. That is not a strategy, it is fumbling around in the dark looking for money, rather than growth. Right now there is confidence growing in the SME sector. The feeling that the country has hit the bottom and the only way is up is beginning to bring the small business community from their foxholes.

On the show this week I spoke to Orlaith Borthwick from Limerick Chamber of Commerce about rates and rents in the city and the new evaluations coming in over the next few years. However, she pointed out that a number of their members are in a predicament. They feel they have the ability to hire, but do they take someone on, or wait to see what comes their way in the Budget on October 14? This dilemma could be costing somebody’s job and a business’s ability to progress.

Governments don’t create employment, but they do set the conditions for it. On the show we have talked about a whole host of schemes and projects set out for SMEs by Government. Often, however, their implementation is disjointed and lacks clarity.

A number of recent reports and surveys have given rise to a feeling among SMEs that growth is happening in spite of Government, rather than because of it. That in itself should be enough for the powers-that-be to begin a closer relationship with SMEs.

If this Government is serious about developing a real and useable strategy for small business, then it really needs to consider the business community when it produces policies like this one. In this case, tobacco and the sale of it depends upon the consumer and demand.

People are well aware of the health risks of smoking. It is not up to the business community to pay for their decision to smoke, twice.

There is a gap between what Government talks about and what it produces in policy.

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