Sale of tobacco to minors
Retailers have a strong influence over whether or not children can access cigarettes and consequently become regular 'established' smokers. These laws are designed to ensure that fewer children can access tobacco, become addicted to smoking and suffer the damaging health effects of smoking. See below for information on:
- the law
- tobacco products
- responsible person
- photographic ID and minors
- minors selling tobacco products
- purchasing tobacco for minors
- retailer's training obligations
- allegations process
- further information
Section 38A of the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 states that it is an offence to sell or supply tobacco products to a child (any person under the age of 18 years). This includes sales through vending machines.
It is still illegal for you to sell the products to anyone under 18 years of age regardless of parental views.
A tobacco product is any product that contains tobacco or any other product designed for the purpose of smoking, for example, herbal cigarettes, pipes, filters and cigarette papers. Matches and cigarette lighters are not tobacco products.
The responsible person in relation to the sale or supply of tobacco products to a child, is the proprietor of the business or a person who sells or supplies the product on behalf of the proprietor. This makes employers and employees equally responsible for tobacco products sold to children.
If in doubt, ask to see ID!
By law a tobacco retailer or their employee can require a person to produce evidence of their age. You must always ask to see photographic proof of age identification (ID) if you suspect the person to be under 18 years. Good business practice is to ask to see ID of anyone you believe to be under 25 years of age, as a significant difference can exist between the perceived age of a young person and their actual age. Identification should be in the form of a current photographic:
- Driver's licence issued under the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 or under a corresponding law of another State or a Territory
- Proof of Age card issued by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles or by a corresponding public authority of the Commonwealth or another State or a Territory
- Passport issued by the Commonwealth or under the law of another country.
- Keypass identification card issued by the Commonwealth Key and Property Register.
Someone under 18 years of age can sell tobacco products, however it is not recommended as they may be less confident about asking to see ID or refusing a sale.
It is illegal for anyone to supply tobacco products to someone under the legal age. Retailers should refuse to sell tobacco products to an adult if they have reason to believe that person is purchasing them to supply to someone under 18 years of age.
Expiation fees (on-the-spot fines) apply for the sale or supply of tobacco products to children. The expiation fee is $315.
Inspectors are also able to proceed with prosecutions in court if deemed appropriate. The maximum penalty is $5000.
The Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse can also suspend or cancel a Retail Tobacco Merchant's Licence if the holder has contravened the Act or is no longer considered, for any reason, a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
All people selling tobacco products need to be given adequate training on how to avoid selling tobacco products to children. This includes training any relatives or friends who might occasionally work in the business as well as paid employees.
Proprietors should ensure that all staff know:
- What procedures they should follow if a customer becomes difficult when asked to produce ID. Role-playing some of the situations that might arise can assist staff in this area.
- The consequences if they are found to have sold cigarettes to a child. Staff should be regularly reminded about these procedures. Some employers find it helpful to develop a store policy and procedure.
See an example of a store policy and procedure.
Controlled purchase operations are undertaken using young people employed by SA Health. They are regularly conducted throughout South Australia to monitor and enforce the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997.
Authorised Officers are legally empowered to investigate alleged breaches of the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997. These investigations will include conducting interviews with those involved and could result in the issuing of expiation notices, suspension or removal of the Retail Tobacco Merchant's Licence or lead to prosecution.
All tobacco retailers are legally required to display the A4 sized Sale of Tobacco Products sign (commonly referred to as a 'prescribed notice'). This sign is a reminder to customers and retailers that it is an offence to sell or supply tobacco products to people under 18 years of age and that proof of age may be sought before a purchase is made. It is required that the sign be displayed in a manner and position that is likely to attract the attention of the customer, near the point of sale (including a vending machine).
Not displaying this sign can incur a maximum penalty of $750 or an expiation fee of $105.
The Sale of Tobacco Products sign is supplied free of charge to all tobacco retailers by SA Health. See Tobacco signage page for downloadable copies or contact SA Health's Health Protection Operations on (08) 8226 7100 to arrange for copies to be sent to you.
For further information on selling tobacco products to minors, contact SA Health's Health Protection Operations on (08) 8226 7100.