Quit Victoria has welcomed new measures that increase penalties for retailers who sell cigarettes to children, saying the new legislation will protect children from unscrupulous traders who put profits ahead of public health.
Quit Executive Director Todd Harper says the new measures, which come into effect today, are an important aspect in fighting youth smoking.
'We congratulate the Government on this important initiative to protect the health of Victorian children. We're also delighted the Government has backed these increased penalties with additional resources to check retailers are complying with the law.'
In Victoria there have been only 11 prosecutions (2 before 1998 and 9 since 1998) against retailers for selling tobacco to children.
'These increased penalties are necessary - unfortunately, the practice of selling cigarettes to children is far more widespread than the number of prosecutions indicates.'
'Studies in Victoria have found that 40% of small retailers sell cigarettes to children, and in some cases this has been as high as 70%.'
'Those retailers who are doing the right thing are being let down by retailers who are putting profits ahead of the health of our children.'
'There's no simple answer for solving the youth smoking problem, but reducing the supply of cigarettes is an integral part of any strategy to reduce youth smoking rates.'
'I'm confident many people will be relieved at these new measures to deter retailers from selling cigarettes to children.'
'Victorians support tougher penalties for shopkeepers who sell cigarettes to children. In 1996, 91% of Victorians said that shopkeepers should be fined if caught selling cigarettes to children under 18, and almost two thirds thought the fines were not heavy enough.'
'Selling cigarettes is a responsibility not a right, and retailers who comply with the law have nothing to fear from these new measures.'
'But if retailers are putting illegal profits before their public health responsibilities to children, they deserve to be fined, and they should be stripped of their right to sell tobacco.'
Mr Harper said studies in the UK, US and Australia have found that effective enforcement of laws on selling tobacco to children - including test purchases by children - have greatly increased the proportion of retailers who abide by the law.
Media Communications Manager