Plans to ban the display of tobacco products in the Republic of Ireland on July 1 remain in disarray.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has now added his voice to calls for the ban to be scrapped, after it emerged that volumes of non-duty paid tobacco have soared in the past year.

Ireland has the highest excise duty on tobacco products in the EU, and seizures of illegal tobacco more than doubled in 2008 with Customs seizing 134m cigarettes. It is widely feared that a display ban would further exacerbate the problem.

Meanwhile, with less than three months to go before the ban is due to be implemented, retailers are still in the dark about changes needed in their stores. One told C-Store: "Legislation states that tobacco products should be kept in a locked container out of sight. However, it is not clear if only the tobacco should be out of sight, or if the container should be too.

"The way things are at the moment, it seems highly unlikely that it will be possible to enforce a ban on July 1."

Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, called for the ban to be delayed for a number of years. He said that a dozen small stores were closing across Ireland every month, and that demands from new regulations would only accelerate this trend.