31 October 2007
Four Retailers Found Selling Cigarettes To Under 18s
A recent Tobacco Controlled Purchase Operation carried out by CDHB’s Community and Public Health division has led to four retailers being prosecuted for selling cigarettes to an underage volunteer.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said that although this result was disappointing, it was consistent with the findings of a recent study carried out by the Ministry of Health, which found that most young smokers (15-19 year olds) purchased their own cigarettes. The study also found that a substantial number of youth wanted to quit smoking.
“By refusing to sell tobacco products to people under 18, retailers are not only complying with their legal obligations under the Smokefree Environments Act, but are also playing an important part in reducing youth smoking rates. Very few people start smoking over the age of 18, so preventing sales to minors saves lives. If premises sell tobacco products, it is their responsibility not to sell to underage people. Clearly not all retailers are complying with the law and these retailers run the risk of prosecution.”
If a retailer is in doubt about a young person’s age, or if the young person looks younger than 25, they should always ask for identification when tobacco is sold. Sales to minors have been found to happen most often when family members or friends of shop owners are helping out at a shop.
“It can be difficult to assess the age of teenagers. It is therefore important not only to ask a person’s age but to require some proof in the form of photo identification,” says Dr Humphrey. “If relatives or friends are helping out in a shop, they need to be supervised so that they can be prevented from selling cigarettes to minors, or alternatively they should refer all tobacco product sales to someone with more experience.”
Retailers and their staff also need to be vigilant in checking the identification of young people who want to purchase cigarettes. Monitoring checks will continue around Christchurch and Canterbury to ensure retailers continue to obey the law. Retailers who are found to be selling tobacco products to people under the age of 18 will face prosecution.
In addition, changes introduced by the 2003 Amendments to the Smokefree Environments Act 1990 can result in retailers who repeatedly offend being ordered not to sell tobacco products for up to three months.