Almost one in five licensed tobacco outlets on the north coast is selling cigarettes to minors, according to a new survey conducted by North Coast Public Health.
The figures show little improvement from 2009, when 22 per cent of the retailers were found to be selling tobacco products to under-18-year-olds. They buck what appeared to be an improving trend over the last two years (11 per cent in 2010 and 12 per cent in 2011).
Retailers caught red handed have been fined up to $750 by north coast local courts in recent months.
Since January this year, 84 tobacco retailers across the north coast of NSW were visited to check if they sold tobacco products to children. On 18 occasions the salesperson was seen to do so.
Greg Bell, north coast acting director public health, said asking customers for identification must be part of staff training.
‘It is deplorable that 19 per cent of tobacco retailers on the north coast were observed illegally selling cigarettes to children this year,’ Mr Bell said.
The maximum fine for selling cigarettes to a minor is $110,000 for a company. Salespeople can be fined up to $11,000 for a first offence and up to $55,000 for a repeat offence.
It is also illegal for people over 18 to buy cigarettes on behalf of a minor.
‘If you’re an adult you can be prosecuted and fined up to $2,200 for buying tobacco products for a young person,’ Greg Bell said.
Detailed information relating to tobacco retailing legislation, smoke-free legislation, tobacco resources and quitting smoking can be found on the NSW Health website at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/healthpromotion/tobacco/.
If a member of the public witnesses the sale of tobacco to someone under 18 years of age, or a person buying a tobacco product for a person under 18 years of age, this can be reported to NSW Ministry of Health on 1800 357 412 or to North Coast Public Health in Lismore on 6620 7585.