Snuff or Chewing Tobacco: Are They Legal in Ireland?

Vintage chewing tobacco ad by Jackson & Co, from 1871 - it was all fun and games until the cancer set in.

This question recently came in from several readers (guess that's why it is called "addicted to nicotine"), and here I'll try to answer it ... in short snuff is legal everywhere, and chewing tobacco is legal in Northern Ireland, but imports into the Republic of Ireland are forbidden. Whether this actually is monitored may be another question, but chewing tobacco in public is not done in Ireland. By the way, both ways of getting a nicotine fix do not fall under the smoking ban, as the tobacco is not actually lit.

Is Snuff Legal in Ireland?

Absolutely - there is no law that prevents you from taking a hearty snuff, more than likely followed by a very explosive sneeze. Smokeless tobacco for nasal consumption does not fall under the smoking ban either.

You may read contrary opinions on this when trawling the web, often with lurid descriptions on "a friend of a mate who knew someone" being incarcerated and waterboarded for having snuff on him. They are all rubbish. The only provision that has to be observed is that the sale of snuff in Ireland has to conform to packaging laws (health warning).

Don't believe me? Well, Peterson of Dublin does quite a brisk trade in snuff, and they should know ...

Is Chewing Tobacco Legal in Ireland?

This is harder to answer ... as by law you might run into trouble. The Public Health (Tobacco) Act of 2002 is quite clear: 38. (2) It shall be an offense for a person to manufacture, import, supply, sell or invite an offer to purchase an oral smokeless tobacco product.

And chewing tobacco is an oral smokeless tobacco product, full stop. Oh, thanks for asking - nicotine chewing gum is not, as it is not directly produced from tobacco.

Again, many a rant on the web features the "EU madness" of this, which is plain wrong - chewing tobacco is legal in the UK (still a member state, though the specter of the Brexit looms), and retailers like Black Swan Shoppe offer it freely.

It may also be found in specialist shops in Northern Ireland.

And here the problem starts - the Irish law forbids the import of chewing tobacco. Does that mean commercial import or the casual import for your own use? If in doubt, both. Having said that, a pouch of chewing tobacco in your pocket will more than likely go unnoticed, especially as it could also be used as pipe tobacco. Far be it from me to suggest you should break the law (if it applies) by carrying your own chewing tobacco into the Republic of Ireland, but I can imagine very few circumstances under which this might cause a problem.

But, and this is just a piece of friendly advice, be prepared for some raised eyebrows and even comments if you start chewing tobacco, followed by the inevitable spitting. This is simply not done, at least not in polite company and full view.

And a Word on Customs ...

Bear in mind that we are talking tobacco products here anyway, and these would be subject to Irish Customs regulations.

There are allowances for duty-free goods from non-EU-countries. The maximum quantities of tobacco products that can be imported without incurring duties and taxes are

  • 200 cigarettes or
  • 100 cigarillos or
  • 50 cigars or
  • 250 grams of tobacco;

Please note the "or"on the list, definitely no "and" here!

For inner-EU goods transfer, a private citizen may generally import as much as would still qualify for "personal use" - obviously no container loads, but (for example) 800 cigarettes that have already been taxed in another EU country generally should pose no problem.