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Anti-Smoking Lobby Wants Tobacco Licences For Retailers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Anti-Smoking Lobby Wants Tobacco Licences For Retailers

Wellington, April 22 NZPA - An anti-smoking lobby group wants tobacco vendors licensed, furthering its attempts to stop people smoking.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said it wanted retailers required to hold a "tobacco licence", which could be revoked if they were caught selling to underage people.

The group's call comes after the operator of a Dunedin dairy was fined $300 for selling tobacco to a 15-year-old girl during a controlled purchase operation last year.

Public Health South carried out the sting operation, sending minors into shops to test if the shopkeepers were checking the ages of people buying cigarettes.

ASH director Ben Youdan said retailers would be less likely to sell to young people if their licence was put at risk.

"We continue to have a lethal product being retailed to underage children. A licence would provide some public accountability." he said.

"It is absurd that something so dangerous can be promoted and sold by anyone, particularly when it is so easy for children to purchase."

Palmerston North tobacco retailer Richard Green said there were already strong deterrent penalties in place to prosecute people for selling tobacco to children.

He didn't oppose the idea of a tobacco licence, even though Ministry of Health investigators already actively monitored tobacco sales, especially to minors.

"It would be like a health licence, like the one I pay for to sell milk," he told NZPA.

Tobacco licences were also used in other countries, though it could be a good idea to test if they work before bringing them in, he said, citing a recent attempt to ban tobacco from being displayed in shops.

The attempted display ban spurred Mr Green to start the Stay Displays Coalition, to counter-balance the assertion that seeing tobacco products encouraged children to start smoking.

He questioned why the dairy owner wasn't fined more heavily, with the law allowing up to $10,000 fine for the business and $2500 for the person selling the smokes.

"A $300 fine to a dairy really is a just weak slap on the wrist," he said.

Retailers repeatedly caught selling tobacco to under-agers could be banned entirely from carrying tobacco products.

However, repeatedly telling children to not smoke only made them curious, Mr Green -- himself a father -- said.

Despite the rigorous attempts of well-intentioned people to keep cigarettes away from young people, New Zealand still had one of the highest rates of under-18-year-old smokers, he said.

He compared the New Zealand situation to that of Sweden, with no minimum age, but also one of the lowest rates of under-18-year-old smoking.

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