Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is mounting a legal challenge to the country's ban on advertising or displaying tobacco products in shops.

Philip Morris said it would file a joint lawsuit tomorrow with a Donegal retailer, Maurice Timony, seeking to overturn the display ban.

'We support strict tobacco regulation but this legislation just serves to hand the tobacco business over to smugglers and counterfeiters,' said Anne Edwards, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris.

'Ireland already has one of the worst illegal cigarette problems in the EU and this ban is making it worse,' she added.

'The ban on display of cigarettes is just one example of a piece of over regulation that has not been well thought through and has negatively affected my business,' commented Maurice Timony.

'As a compliant, law-abiding retailer I have a responsibility to my employees to make sure that I can continue to employ them going forward. Simply put, 'enough is enough.' The display ban threatens my business and I have therefore decided to take a stand against it,' he added.

Ireland was one of the first nations to ban smoking in the workplace in 2004. The rules on shop advertising, introduced in June, follow similar measures in Iceland and parts of Canada.