SINGAPORE: A retailer has been fined and the tobacco licences of five shops suspended after they were found to have sold cigarettes to customers under 18 years old, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Tuesday (Nov 14).
Vaithilingam Pazhanisamy, who was then operating Sri Mahalakshmi Store at Block 531 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, was caught selling cigarettes to a student in his school's PE attire in end-2016. He was fined S$2,300 last Thursday. An HSA spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia that Vaithilingam cancelled his tobacco retail license during the course of the investigation because his business had closed down.
Between August and October this year, five other retailers were similarly caught for selling tobacco products to minors. All did not ask for any identification to check the buyers' age, and claimed that they were busy or that the minors looked older than they were, HSA said.
The five outlets are:
- Prime City at 123 Bedok North Street 2
- Tai Wanderful at 49 Stirling Road
- Hock Siang Cheng Joss Sticks Trading Enterprise at 548 Woodlands Drive 44
- Yi Cheng Department Store at 477 Pasir Ris Drive 6
- 7-Eleven located at 744 Bedok Reservoir Road
All five retailers have had their tobacco licences suspended for six months.
HSA said the retailers were caught via ground surveillance and enforcement activities to deter the illegal sale of tobacco products to those under 18 years old.
Sellers take the risk of contravening the laws if they assess age by mere physical appearance of the buyer, the authority added.
Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, anyone caught selling tobacco products to those below the age of 18 faces a fine of up to S$5,000 for the first offence and up to S$10,000 for the second or subsequent offence.
In addition, the tobacco retail licence will be suspended for six months for the first offence and revoked for the second offence. However, retailers found selling tobacco products to minors in school uniform or those below 12 years of age will have their tobacco retail licence revoked, even at the first offence.
From 2015 to date, 58 tobacco retail licences were suspended and nine were revoked, HSA said.
The minimum legal age for the purchase, use, possession, sale and supply of tobacco products will be increased from 18 to 21. Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin said in Parliament last Tuesday that it will be raised progressively over a period of three years to minimise impact on smokers currently between the ages of 18 and 21.
A ban on the display of tobacco products also came into force in August this year, following a one-year grace period. Laws to ban the display of tobacco products were passed in Parliament last March, under amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Bill.