Tobacco and Vape “Mystery shopping” operation shows crack-down on underage illegal sales is paying off | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Tobacco and Vape “Mystery shopping” operation shows crack-down on underage illegal sales is paying off

A recent Controlled Purchase Operation (CPO) of 20 tobacco and vape retailers throughout the Far North and Whangārei districts shows public health efforts to educate retailers and prevent underage sales are paying off. 

During the operation, underage trained volunteers (between 14 and 17 years old attempted to purchase tobacco and vaping products from retailers. The operation resulted in zero sales from the 20 retailer outlets tested by the smoke-free enforcement staff. 

“The retailers we tested had very good systems in place and asked for identification on every occasion, preventing sales of these harmful products to our rangatahi,” said Smoke-free Enforcement Officer Zane Jones, from Te Whatu Ora – National Public Health Service. 

“By educating retailers and helping them implement stronger systems, we’re ensuring they meet their legal requirements and aren’t perpetuating the harm these products can cause to the next generation.” 

Public health has been engaging tobacco and vaping retailers across Northland to ensure they have systems in place to prevent underage sales. Retailers are urged to always assess the age of customers by insisting on a form of photo identification from anyone who looks under the age of 25. Those who cannot provide photo identification must be refused from purchasing tobacco and vape products. 

“Despite this, too many young people are still getting their hands on vapes in Te Tai Tokerau. If these minors aren’t getting vapes from licenced retailers, then it means other people are buying them and passing them on. We’re urging adults to stop supplying vape products to underage people.”

CPO’s will continue to be conducted randomly during the year. The tactic forms a key pillar of national efforts to create a smoke-free Aotearoa and reduce youth uptake of vaping and smoking. 

November 2023 Northland Smokefree Operation Statistics

  • 12 Vape Retailers visited in Kaitaia, Awanui, Whangārei – NO SALES 
  • 8 Tobacco Retailers visited in Kaitaia, Taipa, Coopers Beach, Kaeo – NO SALES

Background information

Tobacco use and breathing in other people’s smoke (second-hand smoke) causes about 5,000 deaths every year through cancer, stroke and heart disease.[1] 

It is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in New Zealand.[2] 

Stopping smoking completely is the best way to reduce the risk of smoking related diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

For more advice on how to quit smoking go to this website - link)

[1] Ministry of Health. (2004). Looking upstream: Causes of death cross-classified by risk and condition, New Zealand 1997. Wellington: Ministry of Health. 

[2] Tobias, M., & Turley, M. (2005). Causes of death classified by risk and condition, New Zealand 1997. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 29, 5-12.


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