Northern Ireland

‘I see it as a big problem’ - Ballymena newsagent shares concerns over policing tobacco ban

MPs have backed a plan that would ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2009

The Bill will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009
The Bill will make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2009 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A well-known newsagent in Ballymena has said he is worried about harassment from younger customers if a tobacco ban is ever introduced to Northern Ireland.

MPs backed the plans this week that will ban anyone born after 2009 from buying cigarettes.

If it becomes law, it will mean the UK has some of the strictest anti-smoking laws in the world.

The DUP voted against it over concerns about how it would be implemented, with the Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry being the only Northern Ireland MP to vote in favour.

Eugene Diamond of Diamond’s in Ballymena, known for posting the day’s front pages on social media, said on Wednesday: “I asked a youngster to behave in the shop yesterday afternoon, he’d been lifting and throwing products about.

“His language and thoughts about me in reply was unbelievable, I can’t imagine what his reaction will be when he’s 20 and refused cigarettes. I see that as a big problem.”

 Eugene Diamond in his shop on Broughshane Street in Ballymena. Picture by Mal McCann

His MP, the DUP’s Ian Paisley, had raised the same concern to the Health Secretary Victoria Atkins during Tuesday’s Westminster debate – suggesting “one of the biggest triggers of attacks on shopkeepers is asking for proof of age”.

He also questioned if the EU could use the Windsor Framework to block the legislation in Northern Ireland.

The government has since stated this will not be the case, as it was a UK-wide bill that would not affect Northern Ireland’s ability to introduce any of the measures in the bill.

The Stormont Executive and Health Minister Robin Swann have already made clear their support for the ban, which will require approval from the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Commenting on the legislation last month, Mr Swann said: “Smoking kills – it’s that simple. In Northern Ireland it kills more than 2,000 people each year and treating tobacco related conditions costs our hospitals over £200m annually.

“If there are measures available that will reduce preventable deaths, help people live longer healthier lives then as health minister I must advocate for them.”