January 16, 2012
CHILDREN working undercover have stung shopkeepers for illegally selling cigarettes. One in seven retailers were caught out either not checking ages or knowingly selling tobacco products to customers under 18.
The crackdown on sales to the under-aged caught 335 retailers in 2216 attempted purchases in 2010-11. Council officers handed out 135 fines and another 228 retailers were given written warnings. Health Minister David Davis said 42 local councils were participating in so-called sting operations.
“An important aspect of the Tobacco Act is discouraging young people from taking up smoking, and a key to this is minimising their opportunities to get their hands on cigarettes,” he said. Fines for underage sales can range from $488 to $73,000.
Overall, council officers made 19,456 checks on retailers, restaurants and licenced premises for compliance with tobacco laws. Of those, eight matters went to court, 34 on-the-spot fines were issued and almost 2000 warnings.
Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkey said smoking rates among secondary students were the lowest in more than 20 years. Ms Sharkey said: “Most adult smokers start in their teen years, so slashing teen smoking rates is vital to bringing down smoking rates across the whole community.”