(31 March) The Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) has said that data cited by Minister for Health James Reilly, about the extent of tobacco sales to minors through retail outlets, is "nothing short of astonishing in its deviation from the facts."
Last week, the Irish Independent quoted the Minister as saying that 'he finds it "deeply disturbing" that one in four retailers is prepared to "not just break the law, but to expose our children to this product. We will take the necessary steps to ensure that they behave responsibly".'
Retail Intelligence contacted the Department of Health to seek clarification on the comment that 'one in four' retailers is complicit in the sales of tobacco to minors.
It told us: "The HSE’s National Tobacco Control Office has commissioned periodic independent audits of retail premises to measure compliance with point-of-sale (POS) and sales to minors legislation. The most recent audit was undertaken in 2011 by tnsMRBI. In 2011, 73% of premises refused to sell cigarettes to minors."
However, as the CSNA pointed out, between the years 2010 and 2012, the HSE conducted 976 test purchases on registered tobacco retailers to test compliance, and 84.3% of retailers were compliant. In addition, while 153 stores were found not to be compliant, 136 of these avoided prosecution by indicating that they had taken 'all reasonable steps' to prevent sales to minors. Just 17 retailers were prosecuted.
"For the Minister to state that one in four retailers was breaking the law flies in the face of the facts," the CSNA said. "That there are any retailers breaking the law is a serious matter, but the Minster will not achieve compliance or goodwill through attacks upon hard working business owners.
"The Minister is engaging in an exercise of attempting to discredit retailers and suggesting that more serious measures need to be put in place to eradicate a lax compliance regime. These ‘solutions’ include a very significant increase in registration (or licensing), the elimination of vending machines and additional penalties to be levied against stores convicted of selling to minors."
© 2014 - Checkout Magazine by Stephen Wynne-Jones