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Two retailers get nabbed in Palmerston North tobacco sting – health authorities call for licensing of tobacco retailers

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Tobacco retailers in Palmerston North are continuing to sell cigarettes to underage volunteers, as indicated in the latest tobacco Control Purchase Operation (CPO).

​CPOs are conducted by Smoke-Free Enforcement Officers using an underage volunteer to ensure retailers comply with the Smoke-Free Environment Act 1990. Two retailers sold cigarettes to the underage volunteer. There have been four sales to volunteers during these operations in 2015, compared to one over the same period in 2014.
Infringement notices have been issued to all the retailers involved, with a maximum fee of $1000. 

Since 2012, Smoke-free Enforcement Officers have been able to recommend that the Ministry of Health issue infringement notices to retailers who sell to underage volunteers. In that time 20 infringement fines of $500 were issued as a result of these sales to people under 18 for the MidCentral and Whanganui DHB region and one retailer has sold twice during this time.  

Smoke-free Enforcement Officers in the MidCentral, and Whanganui DHB regions work closely with all the retailers and provide information on how to comply with the Smoke-free Environments Act on a regular basis. Smoke-free Enforcement Officer Neil Adams says: “It is extremely disappointing for us to see an increase in sales during these operations.” 

Regional Public Health have also seen increases in sales to volunteers during CPOs in the Wellington region and Medical Officer of Health Stephen Palmer has called for additional tools to support enforcing compliance with the Smoke-free Environments Act on the frontline. 

“It is extremely disappointing that tobacco retailers continue to sell to under age people. Furthermore, the best way forward would be to introduce licences for tobacco retailers. Licensing would reduce the total number of retailers and allow the removal of cigarettes from retailers who repeatedly sell tobacco to minors.” 

Coordinator Health Regulation, MidCentral Public Health Services Tui Shadbolt said: “While we congratulate those retailers who did not sell to our underage volunteers, we are putting the tobacco retailers who do sell during these operations on notice that in future we will be publicly naming them in our media releases this will bring our approach in line with other PHS in the central region.

“Smoking is a significant health issue for young people and the sale of tobacco in our communities is a growing concern. Preventing the uptake of smoking by minors is an important focus in achieving a Smoke-Free Aotearoa by 2025.”

• If you retail tobacco and would like more information on what you need to do to comply with the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, or you have concerns about a tobacco retailer selling tobacco products to children under 18 years, please contact a Smoke-free Enforcement Officer at MidCentral Public Health on (06) 350 9110 and let staff know.

Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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