The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has suspended the tobacco retail licences of six tobacco retailers for selling cigarettes to under-18 minors. Among the six retailers were two 7-Eleven stores, located at 639 Punggol Drive and 319A Anchorvale Drive. All the retailers were caught via HSA's ground surveillance and enforcement activities.
The suspensions took effect between July and September 2018 and will last for six months from the date of the tobacco retail licence suspensions. The affected outlets are not permitted to sell tobacco products until February to April 2019. The sellers had claimed that they were busy or that the minors looked older in age when the transaction happened in the store. HSA reported that one of the sellers was also caught selling tobacco to a minor, aged 17, who was acquiring the product for another minor aged 14.
Sellers take the risk of contravening the laws if they assess age by mere physical appearance of the buyer, HSA said in a statement. In addition, the new minimum legal age to use, possess or buy tobacco products will be raised to 19 years with effect from 1 January 2019. This will jump to 20 years with effect from 1 January 2020 and 21 years with effect from 1 January 2021.
Under the current Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, anyone caught selling tobacco products to persons below the age of 18 is liable, on conviction in Court, to a maximum fine of up to SG$5,000 for the first offence and up to SG$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, if any outlet is found selling tobacco products to under-18 minors in school uniform or those below 12 years of age, the tobacco retail licence will be revoked, even at the first offence. According to HSA, from 2015 to date, 79 tobacco retail licences have been suspended and 11 were revoked by HSA.