PHARMACISTS want the Government to force the immediate closure of head shops because they pose a serious risk to public health.
"There’s talk of ban lists and increased Garda powers by the summer but we need to act now," said Michelle Concannon, a Meath-based pharmacist.
She said it was disturbing to see children coming out of head shops with products that could be lethal.
"People must understand that they are taking huge risks by using products from head shops," she stressed.
Ms Concannon, who was speaking at the weekend meeting of the Irish Pharmacy Union’s (IPU) in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, said teenagers in Britain died after buying a product in a head shop.
The product that killed the teenagers, mephadrone, is now banned in Britain.
"There is no regulation on the sale of these products in Ireland and they are being handed out in a casual, indiscriminate manner to young, naive people," she said.
It emerged last week that charges are being considered against head shop owners in four counties suspected of selling illegal drugs and products.
It is understood the illegal drug sold in each of the five shops is a powerful hallucinogenic.
Gardaí have forwarded files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on investigations dating back two years and more files will be sent to the DPP in the coming weeks. Around 20 shops have been searched in recent months.
Head shop owners are claiming they are being unfairly treated by the Gardaí and the Government.
Shop owners who are members of the newly formed Alternative Traders of Ireland Association are holding two rallies to defend their rights at 2pm next Saturday in Dublin and Cork.
Pharmacists also expressed concern about the Government’s plan to introduce a 50 cent prescription levy for medicines.
Health Minister Mary Harney said she would meet IPU representatives to discuss the implementation of the new charge.
Newly elected IPU president, Darragh O’Loughlin, said there were many serious issues to be resolved in relation to the proposed charge.
Mr O’Loughlin said the IPU wanted a "new relationship for the benefit of patients and the wider community" with Ms Harney and the HSE after the bitter dispute over fee cuts that saw hundreds of pharmacies close their doors for almost a week and a half last August.
By Evelyn Ring
APril 26, 2010