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Nine Waikato Retail Outlets Fail Compliance Test

Nine Waikato Retail Outlets Fail Compliance Test

Nine Hamilton, Morrinsville and Matamata dairy owners and employees are facing prosecution and a fine of up to $2000 after selling cigarettes to people under 18 years of age.

Waikato District Health Board's Population Health health protection staff visited 35 retail premises in Hamilton, Morrinsville, Matamata, Putaruru and Tokoroa during December in a campaign to stop retailers selling cigarettes to people under age.

The premises are all close to secondary schools. Health protection and promotion staff previously visited all of them a few weeks ago at which time they reinforced the need for identity and age checks.

Population Health advisor Nick Young said staff at 26 of the premises visited followed correct procedure and refused to sell cigarettes to the 16-year-old volunteer who was briefed to give their correct age when asked.

Mr Young will contact those retailers whose staff complied with the legislation to advise them of their employees' performance.

However, nine dairy employees and owners sold cigarettes to the volunteer and reports on these cases will now go to the Ministry of Health in Wellington.

The likely result for these retail outlets will be a warning or a District Court prosecution. Mr Young said he was disappointed at the level of non-compliance (25 per cent) and there would be further operations conducted on an ongoing basis. Employers and their staff members needed to ensure they were fully familiar with their obligations under the act.

Background information:

1. Young people in New Zealand continue to become addicted to nicotine at an age when many do not realise the full consequences of smoking. On average, most New Zealand youth aged 15-19 years start smoking at 14.6 years of age and almost 72 per cent would not smoke if they had their lives over again. Almost three-quarters of youth in this age group purchase cigarettes themselves.

2. By the time these young smokers reach an age where they would be expected to have a greater appreciation of smoking, many have difficulty stopping. By age 18, two thirds of New Zealand smokers regret starting and half tried to quit. Recent studies indicate that youth smokers are especially vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and that nicotine addiction may be heightened if smoking is initiated during adolescence.

3. The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (Act) prohibits the sale or supply of tobacco products to youth less than 18 years of age. The Act is a means of curtailing the availability of tobacco to a demographic group which is particularly vulnerable to initiation of smoking behaviour.

4. The Ministry of Health routinely conducts Controlled Purchase Operations to test retailer compliance with the prohibition on selling tobacco products to minors. Prior to 2004, retailers who sold tobacco products to minors were liable to a fine up to $2000. As a result of a legislative amendment in 2004; retailers who have at least two convictions for selling tobacco products to a person under 18 within a two year period may also be prohibited from selling tobacco products for up to three months.

ENDS

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