New fixed penalty levels aimed at targeting those who knowingly sell or encourage the sale of tobacco products to children have been welcomed by the ABC council.
A public consultation on three new Regulations – proposed under the Tobacco Retailers Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 and issued by the Department of Health – is ongoing.
And Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, in its response, says it would support the fixed penalties to “act as a deterrent to businesses and hopefully encourage them to comply with the law”.
In 2013 the Northern Ireland Assembly introduced a Tobacco Retailers Bill, which received Royal Ascent in March 2014. The primary policy objective which underpins the Tobacco Retailers Act is to prevent young people from taking up smoking by making it more difficult for those under the age of 18 to access tobacco products.
The Act is also intended to assist authorised officers of district councils in carrying out their duties with regards to tobacco control by providing them with a central register of tobacco retailers in Northern Ireland.
All tobacco retailers will be required to register their premises with the registering authority – in this case Belfast City Council – and failure to so will be an offence and a fixed penalty notice will be used.
In this case, the fixed penalty notice for an unregistered tobacco retailer will be £500.
The registration system – at no cost – will allow all tobacco retailers to record their details on an online database by completing a simple online application process.
It is estimated that the register will contain between 2,500 and 3,000 entries for Northern Ireland, including approximately 335 from within the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough.
Similar retailer registers have already been established in the Republic of Ireland and in Scotland.
The council will have the new form for fixed penalty notices and these will cover a range of offences.
Anyone selling tobacco products or cigarette papers to someone under the age of 18 can be hit with a penalty of £250. Similarly, anyone over the age of 18 knowingly buying tobacco products or cigarette papers for a person under the age of 18 can be issued with a £250 fixed penalty notice.
And among the other penalties is the failure of registered tobacco businesses to display a note stating ‘It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18’. This can carry a penalty of £100.
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