A dairy-owner faces a criminal record with restrictions on employment, business and international travel after being prosecuted by health authorities for illegally selling $1.50 single cigarettes. "If you break the law… you could be next. That’s our message to retailers who are encouraging childhood addiction through illegally trading cigarettes," says Medical Officer of Health Dr Brad Novak from Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS). Retailers face hefty punishments for selling single cigarettes and selling to minors including criminal convictions and fines of up to $5000.
"Outlets selling single cigarettes are making addiction accessible to children through cheap prices. It is too easy for kids to use their pocket money to buy into a life-long nicotine habit for $1.50. They don’t understand the consequences of that," says Dr Novak. "I started smoking at a very young age from the illegal trade of single cigarettes. During the last six years I spent the same amount of money on cigarettes as my $30,000 student loan. Smoking took away my financial freedom," says student Arnia Appleby.Auckland Regional Public Health has run nearly 700 undercover operations and helped collect $18,000 worth of fines from retailers breaking cigarette laws over the last three years.
"Our team is getting more effective at catching and prosecuting people. We also receive complaints from regular customers dobbing-in their own local store. It proves the community is taking a stand with us on this issue," says Dr Novak. The convicted dairy-owner operates his business within 300 metres of a school and has been the subject of an additional five complaints alleging sale of cigarettes to minors in the last seven years. "This builds a strong case for introducing tobacco licensing laws whereby retailers risk losing their license for repeat offending," says Dr Novak.
ARPHS wants to hear from community groups or individuals keen to take action in the fight against childhood tobacco addiction. If you know of any retailers breaking cigarette laws it’s easy to make an anonymous complaint.
YOUTH SMOKING SNAPSHOT
- 15% of underage smokers aged 15-17 buy cigarettes from retailers breaking the law
(NZ Health Survey: Tobacco Use 2012/2013)
- Most smokers were 14 years old or younger when they started smoking
(NZ Health Survey: Tobacco Use 2014/2015)
- 6% of 15-17 year olds smoke daily (NZ Health Survey: 2014/2015)