Six tobacco retailers' licences has been suspended for selling cigarettes to under-18 minors, which took effect between July and September 2018 and will last for six months from the date of the tobacco retail licence suspensions.
In a press release on Wednesday (9 October), the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) sttaed that the affected outlets are not allowed to sell tobacco products until February to April 2019.
According to HSA, the sellers did not ask for any identification to check the buyers’ age. They had claimed that they were busy or that the minors looked older than they were.
It stated that one of the sellers was also caught selling tobacco to a minor, aged 17, who was acquiring the product for another minor aged 14. Sellers take the risk of contravening the laws if they assess age by mere physical appearance of the buyer.
HSA stressed that it takes a stern view of errant retailers and will not hesitate to take prosecution actions against them. Tobacco retail licensees are reminded that they are responsible for all transactions of tobacco products taking place at their outlets, as well as the actions of their employees.
All tobacco retail licensees are reminded to educate their employees on the law pertaining to the sale of tobacco products and for sellers to check the age of those who wish to buy tobacco products.
The minimum legal age to use, possess or buy tobacco products will be raised to 19 years with effect from 1 January 2019, 20 years with effect from 1 January 2020 and 21 years with effect from 1 January 2021.
Under the current Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, anyone caught selling tobacco products to persons below the age of 18 is liable, on conviction in Court, to a maximum fine of up to $5,000 for the first offence and up to $10,000 for the second or subsequent offence. In addition, the tobacco retail licence will be suspended for 6 months for the first offence and revoked for the second offence.
However, if any outlet is found selling tobacco products to under-18 minors in school uniform or those below 12 years of age, the tobacco retail licence will be revoked, even at the first offence. From 2015 to date, 79 tobacco retail licences were suspended and 11 were revoked by HSA.
HSA also reminds the public not to supply any tobacco products to under-18 minors.
Anyone caught buying or acquiring any tobacco product for a person below the age of 18 years is liable, on conviction in Court, to a maximum fine of up to $2,500 for the first offence and up to $5,000 for the second or subsequent offence.
Similarly, anyone caught giving or furnishing any tobacco product to a person below the age of 18 is liable, on conviction in Court, to a maximum fine of up to $500 for the first offence and up to $1,000 for the second or subsequent offence. From 2015 to date, 18 individuals have been caught for such offences.
HSA encourages members of the public who have information on the illegal sale or supply of tobacco products to under-18 minors to call the Tobacco Regulation Branch at Tel: 66842036 or 66842037 during office hours.