Hundreds of small independent retailers in Ireland have had to pay in full for costly alterations to their tobacco gantries after a ban on display came into force on July 1.

Contrary to anti-smoking lobby group claims, tobacco manufacturers declined to assist smaller retailers with the expensive alterations, which require their products to be stored out of view in closed containers accessible only by staff. 

The lack of financial support offers little comfort to UK shopkeepers who are awaiting a Commons decision on the display ban this week. 

Large stores and supermarkets which sell greater volumes of tobacco are understood to have received some funding for the changes, which also apply to in-store vending machines.

Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association (CSNA) in Ireland, said that many small retailers had found the costs hard to bear.  “We had been hoping until the very last minute that small stores would receive some financial assistance but unfortunately for many this has not been the case,” he said.

Jennings added that stores had been slowly removing the bright gantry panels and lights since January to get shoppers used to the concept as the July 1 deadline approached. They had opted for a variety of different solutions, from coffin style boxes under the counter to gantries with drawers, he revealed.

Retailers are permitted to display one sign in their store informing the public that tobacco products are for sale in their stores to those over 18 years of age. However, no other signs which use the word ‘tobacco’ - even in reference to an age-restricted goods policy - are allowed.

The law also requires all tobacco retailers to register with the Office of Tobacco Control at a cost of 50 Euros - a fixed fee irrespective of the size of the store.