5 tobacco retailers' licences suspended by HSA for selling cigarettes to minors, another fined

SINGAPORE - The licences of five tobacco retailers who sold cigarettes to minors under 18 years old, have been suspended for six months, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said in a press release on Tuesday (Nov 14).

The suspensions were issued between August and October this year, following the agency's ground surveillance and enforcement activities.

The five outlets, all first time offenders, did not ask for any identification to verify their customers' ages, claiming they were busy or that the 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," said HSA in the press release.

Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, anyone caught selling tobacco products to buyers under 18 years old can be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence, and up to $10,000 for the second or subsequent ones.

The licence to sell tobacco will be suspended for six months the first time round, and revoked for the second.

However, if the buyers are dressed in school uniform or below 12 years old, the seller's licence will be revoked, even the first time round.

From 2015 to date, 58 tobacco retail licences have been suspended and 9 revoked.

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

Another retailer - Vaithilingam Pazhanisamy who was operating Sri Mahalakshmi Store Pte Ltd at block 531 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 - was prosecuted and convicted on Nov 9, for selling cigarettes to a minor dressed in his school's physical education (PE) attire late last year.

He denied the offence but there was evidence to prove it. He was fined $2,300.

"Tobacco retail licensees are reminded that they are responsible for all transactions of tobacco products taking place at their outlets, as well as the actions of their employees," the agency said.

It urged tobacco retailers to educate their employees on the law pertaining to the sale of tobacco products, and to check the age of buyers.

HSA also reminded members of public not to supply tobacco products to minors. It is an offence punishable by law.

From 2015 to date, 18 individuals have been caught for such offences.

Anyone with information on the illegal sale of tobacco products to under-18 minors, can call the Tobacco Regulation Branch at 66842036 or 66842037 during office hours.