A tour of stores revealed confusion, and in some cases a total misunderstanding of new legislation which came into force on July 1 and requires retailers to place all tobacco products in a sealed container, remove all gantry branding, and sign up to a new tobacco register.
One retailer had concealed roll your own (RYO) products behind a sheet of paper, while another had left the door to his tobacco compartment wide open.
Several store owners were unaware that they could display a small price list, while nearly all were missing the mandatory A4 sign which states that tobacco products will not be sold to under-18s. A Dublin retailer was out of stock of his best-selling cigarette because he did not realise that the law permitted restocking during opening hours.
"The whole thing is utterly ridiculous," said Robert Alexander of Tom Stanley's Stores in Dublin. "No one's got a clear idea of what's required, particularly shoppers who just assume that we don't sell tobacco any more."
Deirdre Healy, corporate affairs manager at John Player and Sons, criticised the Irish government for not supplying retailers with enough information on the changes.
"They put very little effort into explaining the law, and as a result there is a dreadful understanding of it," she said. A lack of consistent advice from local enforcement agencies was compounding the problem, she added.
Agencies are expected to take a soft approach to non-compliance until October, but after this date retailers who breach the regulations face fines of up to E3,000, while persistent breaches could see stores lose their tobacco licences for up to three months.