Page 744 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 26 February 2013
The new compliance testing program involves a trained purchase assistant under the age of 18 entering a tobacco retailer under the supervision of an authorised officer and attempting to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products. There are strict conditions under which the purchase assistants operate. Purchase assistants undergo a comprehensive training program and are carefully supervised at all times during the inspections. In addition, all of the assistants must be non-smokers and have demonstrated a commitment to tackling and reducing the harmful effects of smoking on the population and of young people in particular.
The testing has, regrettably, identified that a substantial number of retailers are not complying with their obligations under the act. I should stress, of course, that these are not new or extra obligations being placed upon retailers. Retailers are already required to take appropriate steps to eliminate or attempt to prevent the sale of cigarettes to minors. Further action is being taken in relation to these identified alleged breaches of compliance as part of the work of the Office of Regulatory Services.
MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Porter.
MS PORTER: Attorney, what were the results of the compliance testing in relation to the sale of cigarettes to underage persons?
MR CORBELL: The new compliance testing program was conducted at 24 locations over a three-stage period during the last two months. Of the 24 retailers who were inspected by the Office of Regulatory Services, nine were found to be noncompliant in that they sold tobacco products to an underage person. The Office of Regulatory Services is currently considering appropriate enforcement action in relation to these matters, and the prosecutions have not yet been undertaken.
The Office of Regulatory Services will refer the matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions who will determine whether or not to proceed with any individual matter and the time frame involved. Once matters have been referred for prosecution, that information will be provided publicly.
MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Dr Bourke.
DR BOURKE: Minister, how important is undertaking ongoing compliance activity in preventing the sale of cigarettes to underage persons?
MR CORBELL: I thank Dr Bourke for the supplementary. It is very important. We understand that smoking rates in the ACT amongst teenagers are particularly high. Seventeen per cent of teenagers aged 16 to 17 years report smoking regularly. This compliance program has demonstrated how important it is for ongoing compliance activity to be undertaken to prevent the sale of cigarettes to children and young people under the age of 18. It is designed to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco on the population and on young people in particular.