Northland District Health Board were disappointed to see retailers continuing to sell cigarettes to minors after they conducted a controlled purchase operation (CPO) involving several Whangarei retailers recently.
Of the 20 retailers tested in Whangarei, two were found in breach of the Smokefree Environments Act 1990, which prohibits the sale of tobacco to anyone under 18 years of age. Disappointingly this result shows little improvement from previous operations.
Dr Catherine Jackson, Medical Officer of Health says, “Smoking is the biggest driver of preventable ill health in Northland and contributes to early death in adults and stillbirth and sudden infant death in Northland babies. It is unacceptable that some retailers are contributing to nicotine addiction in young people by selling to under age children.”
CPO’s are conducted throughout the year using children aged below the legal age of 18 to approach retailers to purchase tobacco products under controlled conditions. The volunteers carry no identification and are required to tell the truth about their age if asked by the retailer.
The maximum fine for breaches of the Act is up to $2,000. Changes introduced by the 2003 amendments to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 can result in repeat offending retailers being ordered not to sell any tobacco products.
Details regarding the retailers who sold cigarettes to the 17 year old volunteers, will be forwarded to the Ministry of Health for a decision on further action which may include prosecution of the retailer.
Northland DHB Smokefree Officer, Jo Dones says CPO’s have been conducted for many years and it is clear some retailers aren't complying with the law and are prepared to risk prosecution.
“If they look under 25, ask for photo identification, no photo identification, no sale. It really is that simple. The Smokefree Environments Act 1990 is not new legislation, and all business operators have legal obligations under the act.”
All district health boards conduct regular CPO’s, one of its principal aims is to protect children from developing an addiction to tobacco and further operations are planned throughout the Northland.
Any retailers requiring assistance with staff training and information can contact Smokefree Officers, Northland District Health Board (09) 430 4100.