05 May 2016

Survey reveals fewer tobacco retailers are selling to minors

The Department of Health’s latest Tobacco Retailer Compliance Survey has shown a dramatic reduction in the number of tobacco retailers selling cigarettes to children.

In an audit undertaken last year, in which children were recruited to try to buy cigarettes in a controlled shopping exercise, less than a fifth of attempted purchases were successful.

Director of Environmental Health, Jim Dodds, said that while this latest survey suggested retailers were getting better at complying with the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006, there was still room for improvement.

“The 2015 Tobacco Retailer Compliance Survey results are the lowest since the Department’s surveys began,” he said.

“The 16 per cent success rate of minors purchasing cigarettes in 2015 is a significant reduction from the 29 per cent success rate in 2013.

“It is pleasing to see a reduction in successful purchases by children involved in the survey, and that diligent retailers are taking the time to check IDs of young people attempting to buy cigarettes.

“This positive outcome is a reflection of the concerted efforts the Department of Health has made to increase retailer staff training since the 2013 survey.

“However given the known dangers of smoking and the tough anti-tobacco laws in place, it is still a concern that nearly one fifth of attempts were successful.”

The survey, which took place in late 2015, engaged eight teenagers - four girls and four boys – who made 1008 purchase attempts across 541 stores.

Mr Dodds said information outlining the obligations of retailers under the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 was available to help retailers understand WA’s tobacco laws.

“Preventing young people from taking up smoking is vital to reducing smoking in the community and is a priority for the Department of Health,” he said.

“The Department of Health co-ordinates a comprehensive range of strategies to prevent uptake of smoking by young people.”

This includes:

  • monitoring and enforcement of the law
  • educating and working with tobacco retailers
  • working with key stakeholders such as Local Authorities and police.

It is illegal in Western Australia to sell or supply tobacco to a person younger than 18 years.

Mr Dodds said that under the Act, the onus was on retailers to ensure anybody buying tobacco provided acceptable proof of being older than 18 years. This could be in the form of a driver’s licence, passport or Department of Transport photo card.

The maximum penalty for an individual who sells tobacco to a minor is $10,000 for a first offence and $20,000 for a subsequent offence. For a body corporate, the penalties are $40,000 and $80,000 respectively.

The compliance audit was conducted in accordance with approved policy and guidelines and the young people involved were all over the age of 15.

No retailers were prosecuted as a result of the Tobacco Retailer Compliance Survey as this is not permitted by the legislation; however the results will be used to further inform and educate tobacco retailers of their responsibilities under the Act.

See the Report on the Tobacco Compliance Survey 2015.

  • The Tobacco Retailer Compliance Survey provides data about traders and the conditions under which they are more likely to sell tobacco products to children. The Department does not use the results as a tool to initiate infringements or prosecutions. 
  • In addition to the Tobacco Retailer Compliance Survey, the Department also undertakes regular Controlled Purchase Operations. These operations target tobacco retail stores to determine their likelihood of selling tobacco products to minors. If a sale of tobacco products is made to a minor during a Controlled Purchase Operation, the retailer will be issued with an infringement notice or prosecuted.