(WINDSOR, ON) – Over the past five years, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has used enforcement to decrease the number of tobacco vendors selling cigarettes to minors. To date, we have not seen any significant improvements. This continues to be a major problem in our community.
“This level of continued non-compliance is unacceptable,” says Liz Haugh, Director of Health Promotion. “Selling cigarettes to anyone under 19 years of age has been illegal since 1994 and there is no logical reason for these infractions to keep occurring.”
Enforcement of this requirement under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act is organized through our Tobacco Test Shopping Program. As per provincial mandates, underage teen test shoppers, under the supervision of Health Unit Tobacco Enforcement Officers, visit each tobacco retailer in our community many times per year and attempt to buy cigarettes. If a sale is made, the tobacco vendor is charged. These charges are very serious offences and as such a progressive enforcement model is in place. Tobacco retailers convicted of two tobacco-related offences may be subject to a six month prohibition from storing or selling tobacco products.
In an effort to lower the rate of sales to underage youth, the Health Unit is piloting a Tobacco Vendor Education Program aimed at premises recently charged with an illegal sale. A Health Unit representative will contact the owner or manager at each offending facility to offer an educational session for all sales staff. This session will provide an overview of their requirements as tobacco vendors under the Act and answer questions or provide suggestions for how best to ensure that their facility doesn’t re-offend.