A ban on displaying cigarettes and other tobacco products in stores in the Irish Republic is imminent, according to health minister Mary Harney.

Less than a week after the UK government revealed proposals to force cigarettes under the counter, Harney said retailer consultation had been completed and new laws would come into force "very shortly".

As well as a ban on over-the-counter displays, tobacco products must be kept in out-of-sight, closed containers and all PoS advertising will be banned. A register of all retailers selling tobacco will also be established, with breaches of the regulations carrying an automatic three-month suspension.

Most stores had cigarettes and tobacco advertising alongside sweets and chocolates, said Harney, "creating the impression on children that tobacco is much more socially acceptable than is the case". "We need to 'denormalise' tobacco products in the retail environment," she added.

The Irish Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association criticised the register. "We have legal advice that such a sanction would be unconstitutional and we want to see it removed," said CEO Vincent Jennings. "We have other concerns, too, such as the cost involved in store restructuring and the contradiction between keeping products in closed containers and the legal requirement that all prices be publicly displayed."