Tobacco test purchase program reminders retailers of their obligations

9 March 2017 - Media release

Campaspe Shire Council recently completed a six-month tobacco test purchasing program to gauge whether local retailers were upholding their responsibilities under the Tobacco Act 1987 not to sell tobacco to people under the age of 18 years. 

Of the 39 tobacco test purchases conducted by council with the assistance of 16-year-old youth, three businesses were found in breach of the Act. None of these businesses had a history of selling cigarettes to a person under the age of 18. However, all have been issued with a warning by council’s environmental health officers. 

"The sale of even one cigarette to a minor is unacceptable so council is pleased to support the Department of Health and Human Services’ Cigarette Sales to Minors Program to reinforce retailers' responsibilities in ensuring they do not sell tobacco to those aged under 18," Regulatory & Community Services General Manager, Mr Paul McKenzie said. 

“Tobacco retailers have a very important role to play in stopping the supply of tobacco to children and adolescents so all levels of government and the community need to work together in supporting them to undertake this responsibility successfully. 

"With research confirming that restricting the sale of tobacco to minors decreases the rate of teenage smoking and helps prevent young people moving from being an experimental smoker to becoming a regular and addicted smoker, tobacco test purchasing is an important part of the strategy to achieve 100 per cent compliance by retailers with the law." 

Those found selling cigarettes to a minor could receive an on-the-spot fine of $622 for an individual or $9,300 for a body corporate. 

Penalties also apply to managers and business owners who have not trained staff appropriately. 

"When selecting a 16-year-old youth to participate in this program, particular attention is paid to ensuring they look and dress appropriate to their age, to demonstrate to the business that they are not being trapped into selling by using someone who may be mistaken as 18 or older. 

“It’s not always easy to tell how old a person is,” Mr McKenzie said. “That’s why tobacco retailers are recommended to ask for identification from any person who may look under 25. 

“It’s now well understood that retailers have a duty to uphold the law with respect to the sale of tobacco to minors so it is generally accepted that from time to time, some people in the community may get asked to show identification to prove their age. It’s the same with the purchase of alcohol or for entry into a nightclub, for example. 

“While potentially a little more time consuming, it’s in the best interests of the young person and could avoid a potentially hefty fine for the retailer,” he said. 

Council will continue to run the Cigarette Sales to Minors Program, along with providing education to tobacco retailers.