HSA cracks down hard on 6 errant retailers caught selling tobacco to minors

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has suspended the tobacco retail license of five tobacco retailers who sold cigarettes to minors under 18 years old.

The five retailers are 7-Eleven located at 744 Bedok Reservoir Road, 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 and Yi Cheng Department Store at 477 Pasir Ris Drive 6.

The licenses were suspended between August and October this year and retailers were caught by HSA’s ground surveillance and enforcement initiatives. This is to deter the sale of tobacco products to minors. According to HAS, the five sellers in the shops did not ask for any identification to verify the buyer’s age and claimed they were busy or that minors looked older than they were.

“Sellers take the risk of contravening the laws if they assess age by mere physical appearance of the buyer,” the report said. It added that all five outlets were caught selling cigarettes to under-18 minors for the first time. The suspension also bans errant retailers from selling tobacco products for six months.

Meanwhile, retailer Vaithilingam Pazhanisamy, who was then operating Sri Mahalakshmi Store, at Block 531 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 was prosecuted for selling tobacco to a minor in his school’s PE attire in end-2016. As such, he was fined SG$2,300 on 9 November 2017.

This is not the first time HSA has cracked down on errant tobacco retailers. Just in August, it revoked or suspended the licences of 13 tobacco retailers which sold cigarettes to minors under the age of 18 years old. One retailer had its licence revoked for selling cigarettes to a minor wearing a school uniform. Meanwhile, the others were suspended between May to July this year for tobacco sales to minors.

The enforcement follows news in March which saw Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) revealing that it will look to standardise tobacco packaging. This is along with proposing legislative changes to Parliament within a year to raise the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco products to minors, from 18 to 21 years, a change which will be phased in over a few years.