Every shop stocking cigarettes in the Irish Republic may have to register in a tough new government crackdown on tobacco sales to children. Under new legislation being prepared by health minister Micheal Martin, any retail outlet convicted of underage sales would be removed from the register and tobacco firms barred from supplying it for an unspecified period. The legislation may also set out certain times during the day when cigarettes may not be sold, such as the closing hours of local schools. According to the minister, the legislative package, one of the most restrictive in the world, would raise the age limit for cigarette sales from 16 to 18 and require retailers to remove point of sale ads. They will also be required to display cigarette packs out of sight of children. RGDATA, the independent grocers' organisation, is seeking an early meeting with the minister to discuss the proposed registration system and how it would work. Director general Ailish Forde welcomed the plan to raise the age limit for cigarette sales to 18, but warned that the measures being proposed at retail level "must be workable and balanced". The minister accused some retailers of selling cigarettes to children as young as 12 and warned that the new legislation would propose stiff penalties for such offences. His warning came as a West of Ireland Health Board revealed that more than half of 200 retailers surveyed in its area were ignoring the law on underage sales. The survey, conducted by environmental health officers who used minors to make test purchases, found retailers sold cigarettes to children under 14, even when the children gave their true age. The shop owners have now been given an official warning that if there is a second offence, they will be prosecuted. RGDATA's Forde called the findings "very alarming". She said: "We have consistently warned retailers of the very serious consequences of selling cigarettes to children. We will be in contact with the Board to see what can be done to improve awareness among retailers." {{NEWS }}