One retailer failed to ask for identification of a person under 18 in a Controlled Purchase Operation (CPO) for tobacco by Public Health South conducted across Dunedin, Waihola, Milton, Kaitangata and Balclutha last week (Tuesday 27 November).

Retailers are tested periodically for compliance with the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (the Act), where it is illegal to sell tobacco products to persons under the age of 18. 

“Volunteers who help with a CPO must not carry any identification (ID) and have to disclose their true age if asked when trying to purchase tobacco,” says Joanne Lee, Smoke-free Enforcement Officer at Public Health South.

The underage volunteer was asked for ID at 16 out of 17 retail outlets indicating the volunteer was age appropriate, and that the majority of retailers were showing due diligence under the legislation by requesting proof of age. 

“We visit retailers to remind them about their legal obligations under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (the Act),” says Ms Lee.

“It is their responsibility to train staff accordingly.  The gold standard is to ask for identification (ID) if anyone trying to purchase tobacco products looks younger than 25 years.”

The person who sold a packet of cigarettes to the 17 year old volunteer did not ask to see identification or query the volunteer’s birth date.  The seller has been issued an infringement notice of $500 by the Ministry of Health and this must be paid within 28 days.

Retailers may be selected for inclusion in a CPO because they are in close proximity to schools, they have been warned about selling to minors in the past, or it has been some time since the retailer was tested.  The only acceptable forms of identification are a driver’s licence, passport or a Hospitality Association New Zealand (HANZ) 18+ card.  “If there is no identification, then there should be no sale,” says Ms Lee.