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Singapore: Accidental tobacco sales to minors keep health officials on constant vigil

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has been actively dealing with the problem of tobacco being sold to underage buyers as it is seen as an increasing problem.

Cashiers at the respective shops were either new or judge the buyer based on their appearance, which has sometimes led to the shop’s tobacco license to be suspended.

HSA has been on their constant rounds to make sure this does not occur, by sending officials dressed in plain clothes.

They closely observe the situation which is going on inside the said shop, and if they find that the shop has sold it to someone who is underage, the shop’s license gets suspended or revoked.

A spokesperson for HSA told Channel NewsAsia that the penalty for selling tobacco products to under-aged buyers is a maximum fine of S$5,000, and S$10,000 for subsequent offenses. In addition, the tobacco retail licensee will also be suspended for the first offense and revoked for subsequent offenses, she said.

“If tobacco were sold to under-aged persons in school uniform or those below 12 years of age, the tobacco retail license will be revoked, even at the first offense,” the spokesperson added

A few months ago, Sally Ng, a minimart owner received a frantic call from her employee saying that a member of her staff had sold cigarettes to a student in uniform and that officers from the HSA saw it and revoked the shop’s tobacco licence.

In his defence, the employee who committed the offence said he did not see that the boy was in uniform, as he was holding his bag in front of him.

Sally Ng said the owner, though constantly reminded her employees to check the identity cards of customers who choose to buy tobacco products, failed to prevent the sale to minors.

In a major opeation Channel NewsAsia went to six of the shops to see what the underlying problem could possibly be regarding their offences, which revealed that the cashiers were new, foreign or judged the buyer based on their appearance instead of asking them for their identity cards.

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