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Sales of cigarettes to minors slashed

Sales of cigarettes to minors appear to have fallen dramatically in the last year, according to figures released today by the Ministry of Health.

Associate Health Minister, Hon Tuariki Delamere, said that the figures showed that sales rates to underage volunteers had fallen to around five percent for the period July 1998 to June 1999.

These figures reinforce the findings of a 1998 survey of fourth formers undertaken for the Ministry by Action on Smoking and Health, which showed that young people were finding it increasingly difficult to purchase cigarettes.

"It is of concern, however, that many young people are still obtaining cigarettes from friends and family. I urge parents not to help their children become addicted to tobacco. By the time young people realise that they don't want to be smokers, it is often too late. Making it more difficult for young people to access cigarettes makes it more difficult for them to become addicted."

Mr Delamere said that since increased enforcement of the ban on sales of cigarettes to minors began in 1996, nearly 3000 premises have had their compliance tested.

"The sales rate has fallen from 10 percent in 1996/1997 to eight percent in 1997/1998, and now to five percent. Before 1996, the sales rate to minors was estimated to be as high as 30 percent. Retailers are to be congratulated for this reduction.

"Particularly noticeable over the past year is the decrease in the number of 15 and 16 year olds who are able to purchase cigarettes.

"In 1997, the age at which people can be sold cigarettes was raised from 16 to 18, and this certainly seems to be having the desired effect of restricting teenagers' access to tobacco."

Mr Delamere said that to date over 110 retailers had been successfully prosecuted for selling tobacco to minors.

On a less positive note, a survey conducted between December 1998 and April 1999 with 17 year old volunteers found that 40 percent of retailers sold tobacco products to the volunteer.

"While this survey was strictly for informational purposes, and no prosecutions were taken, it emphasises that retailers must ask for identification if they are in doubt of a young person's age. If appropriate identification cannot be supplied, the young person should not be sold cigarettes. This applies whether the young person is 13 or 17," said Mr Delamere.

Controlled Purchase Operation figures 1998/1999

Total visits: 1081

Total sales: 57

Sales rate of 5 percent (8% in 97/98, 10% in 96/97)

Percentage of sales per age:

16 14%

15 9%

14 5%

13 3%

Ends

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