Staff sell smokes to youngsters

SALES staff at three Coffs Coast stores have been prosecuted for selling cigarettes to customers under the age of 18 over the past six months.

A newsagent at Crescent Heads has been slugged with a $1200 fine; a convenience store owner in Nambucca Heads was fined $1100, and; a staff member at a Macksville supermarket received a $450 fine.

All three individuals appeared in local courts, prosecuted by the Department of Health.

North Coast Area Health Service public health director Paul Corben said the recent court matters served as a stern warning to all businesses that selling tobacco to minors is illegal.

“There is no excuse, salespeople must ask customers for identification,” Mr Corben said.

“No identification, no sale is the strongest message we can give to retailers that sell cigarettes.

“If all salespeople ask customers who appear to be under the age of 25 years for identification, then everyone should be able to comply with the law.”

Since July 2009, 12 per cent of tobacco retailers tested for compliance, failed to ask for identification.

Inspections conducted between June 2006 and June 2007 meanwhile, found less than 10 per cent of premises inspected sold cigarettes to young people.

The random checks showed while many local businesses continue to support the fight against young people taking up smoking by not selling tobacco to minors, others continue to sell cigarettes to people under the age of 18.

The maximum fine for selling cigarettes to a person under 18 years of age in NSW is $110,000.

Tobacco retailers face fines of $55,000 for a first offence and incur a criminal record for every subsequent charge.

The Public Health Act also makes it illegal to purchase a tobacco product on behalf of a person under 18 years of age.

If anyone sees the sale of tobacco to someone under 18 years of age, the offence can be reported to the Tobacco Information Line 1800 357 412 or to the Public Health Unit 6620 7500 in Lismore or 6588 2750 in Port Macquarie.

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