New research shows that almost half of all shop retailers and two thirds of licensed premises are willing to sell cigarettes to minors.

The Office of Tobacco Control employed teams of young teenagers and accompanying adults to carry out undercover tests on 1,500 outlets.

Teenagers aged between 14 and 17 attempted to purchase cigarettes in 1,309 shops and 217 licensed premises in August and September of last year.

It was found 48% of shops were willing to sell cigarettes to the youths, while 64% were not prevented from buying cigarettes from a vending machine in licensed premises.

The research found that only 47% of shops and 30% of licensed premises asked the children for ID.

Reacting to the findings, the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association said it was disappointed with the performance of newsagents in this survey and is calling for garda age ID cards to be made compulsory.

A separate OTC phone survey found that three out of four people would be in favour of a complete ban of tobacco advertising.

Launching the report, Minister for Health Mary Harney said she would soon be receiving a submission on limiting the advertising and display of tobacco products in shops and would be bringing those regulations into effect shortly.

Ms Harney also appealed to retailers to ask for identification to make sure they are not breaking the law by selling cigarettes to minors.