Packaging changes may see Limerick shop stub out fag trade

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Eleanor Purcell at Cahill's in Wickham Street. She fears she may no longer be able to sell tobacco into the future. Picture: Kieran Clancy
THE proprietor of Limerick’s only dedicated tobacco shop has revealed she might have to stop selling smoke and snuffs to stay in business.

THE proprietor of Limerick’s only dedicated tobacco shop has revealed she might have to stop selling smoke and snuffs to stay in business.

Eleanor Purcell, who runs Cahill’s in Wickham Street, says that with an upsurge in smuggled tobacco, and the proposed plain packaging of tobacco, she may have to “let the cigarettes go”.

Opened in 1870, Cahill’s sells more than 50 varieties of tobacco and snuff.

When legislation came outlawing the display of tobacco products, Cahill’s was one of just four shops in Ireland which secured a derogation to allow the display.

But in return, it meant Eleanor was unable to sell anything else apart from tobacco.

Before, she sold lottery tickets, coffee, bread and gifts.

Now, she is considering stubbing out the smokes.

“I don’t want to see the shop fail on my watch. The business has come down through my family, and I don’t want to be the one who will have to say this can’t go on. I will just have to look at the maths and do what I have to do to keep the shop open,” she revealed, “Perhaps I will have to look at a situation where Cahill’s will have to give up cigarettes.”

A big reason her trade has fallen is down to smuggled cigarettes. Lobby group JTI Ireland say three in ten cigarettes in Limerick come from illicit sources. But Eleanor feels 60% is closer to the truth.

“It is almost coincidental the smuggled product has accelerated hugely and I have lost my customers anyway. My cigarette sales have fallen and fallen and fallen,” she said.

In the recent budget, Finance Minister Michael Noonan increased the excise duty on tobacco, meaning the price of a packet of cigarettes now tops €10.

“Tobacco products contribute millions and millions daily to the exchequer. But over the past year, with all the initiatives to stop people from smoking, the state has at the same time allowed a free for all in terms of smuggling. They have continued to increase the price of tobacco, even though it has been shown those who smoke tobacco are the ones who can least afford it,” Eleanor said, “For people who are in low socio-income groups, €10 every day is incredible. I think the minister suggested this was not a revenue-increasing tactic, but more a disincentive to smoke. But I am afraid the actual reality is that it is a disincentive for people to buy cigarettes in my shop,but an incentive for people to buy from the boot of a car.”