SINGAPORE: Several retailers, including two 7-Eleven outlets at Punggol and Anchorvale, have had their tobacco retail licences suspended for selling cigarettes to under-18 minors, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said in a press release on Wednesday (Oct 10).
Sellers at the affected outlets did not ask for any identification to check the buyers' age, claiming that they were busy or that the buyers looked older than they were, HSA said.
The 7-Eleven outlet located at 639 Punggol Drive was also caught selling tobacco to a 17-year-old, who was buying for another minor aged 14.
The other four outlets with suspended licences are: SM Mart at 38 Teban Gardens Road, Ibrahim Trading at 411 Commonwealth Avenue West, Gui Bin Minimart at 296A Bukit Batok Street 22 and Big Retail Supermarkets at 764 Choa Chu Kang North 5.
The outlets will each have their licences suspended for six months.
"Sellers take the risk of contravening the laws if they assess age by mere physical appearance of the buyer," said HSA.
Since 2015, 79 tobacco retail licences have been suspended and 11 revoked by HSA, mainly due to the sale of tobacco to minors.
The number of suspended licences has increased each year - from eight in 2015 to 24 in 2016 and 28 last year - mainly due to increased enforcement, according to figures from an HSA spokesperson.
Meanwhile, seven licences were revoked in 2015, and one each in 2016 and 2017.
In the first nine months of this year alone, 19 licences have been suspended and two revoked.
"The increase in the number of suspended licences was largely due to increased enforcement, as part of the Government’s continued effort to keep the smoking rate in Singapore as low as possible," said the spokesperson.
Anyone caught selling tobacco products to those aged below 18 could be fined up to S$5,000 for a first offence and up to S$10,000 for the second or subsequent offence.
In addition, the offender's tobacco retail licence will be suspended for six months for a first offence and revoked for a second offence.
However, if an outlet is found selling tobacco products to under-18 minors in school uniform or those below 12 years of age, its tobacco retail licence will be revoked, even at the first offence.
Members of the public are also liable if they are found to have bought tobacco products for those under 18.
If found guilty, they can face a maximum fine of up to S$2,500 for a first offence and up to S$5,000 for a second or subsequent offence.
Similarly, anyone caught giving or furnishing any tobacco product to a person below the age of 18 could be fined up to S$500 for a first offence and up to S$1,000 for a second or subsequent offence.
Eighteen people have been caught for such offences since 2015.
The suspensions come about two months before the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products is raised to 19, from Jan 1 next year.
The minimum legal age will then be raised to 20 from Jan 1, 2020 and 21 a year later.