Staff safety could be compromised by raising the smoking age

Staff safety could be compromised by raising the smoking age
CSNA's Vincent Jennings

The Department of Health’s proposal to raise the legal age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 will cause problems for staff members in shops and supermarkets. That’s the verdict of retailer representative associations.

It’s been questioned whether the legislation would still allow retail workers aged 18 or over to sell tobacco products, stating it would be a disaster for stores who employ people of that age if they could no longer do so.

CSNA’s Vincent Jennings told the Journal that he is concerned about the practicalities for retailers if the legislation is approved.

“We haven’t been asked as an association our views or otherwise about this. We have written to the Department on a number of occasions and have sought meetings and haven’t been granted those,” he said.

He said staff members could have difficulty telling a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old that they can purchase alcohol and lottery tickets, but not cigarettes. This also raises concerns in terms of staff safety, he said.

“We’re all very aware that since Covid, people have become unbelievably aggressive and very, very prone to misogynistic and racist abuse of people, including in our stores,” Mr Jennings said.

“This may well increase the difficulties for our staff, and we need assistance in that from the State. We need an understanding from them.”

Retailers have given evidence that levels of crime, violence and anti-social behaviour towards staff were at an all-time high.

Vincent Jennings cited a recent Revenue Survey which found that over a third (34%) of cigarettes smoked in Ireland last year had no Irish duty or taxes paid on them.

Of those, 19% were found to be illegal, while 15% were legal but non-Irish Duty Paid.

He asks “Are Revenue and Customs now going to be authorised and obligated to prevent 18, 19 and 20 year olds from accessing duty free and bringing it into the country? Or are we, the retailers, the only ones that are expected to police this law?”