Eight million illicit cigarettes were seized in County Armagh last week, according to the Irish retail body Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS).

Had they made it to the streets, the cigarettes would have represented a loss to the Exchequer of e2m.

The seizure, made as the shipment was being offloaded from a 40ft trailer at a commercial premises, is the largest in Ireland so far this year.

RAS spokesman Benny Gilsenan said: "We congratulate Custom officials and their colleagues in the North for their hard work in stopping such a large consignment of illegal cigarettes. The e2m is the equivalent of the wages for 60 staff in the retail sector for a year and Customs' action has ensured these jobs are safe. If these illegal cigarettes had not been stopped, there is no doubt that the livelihoods of people working in retail would have been under threat."

In a recent survey of RAS members, 94% described tobacco sales as being "vital" to their store. One in two also said that redundancies would have to be made if the trend in smuggling continued unfettered.