Quit has welcomed the Government's announcement of new measures aimed at reducing the sale of cigarettes to children.
Executive Director Todd Harper says the new measures will protect children from unscrupulous traders who put profits ahead of children's health.
'We know that currently children can far too easily buy cigarettes; studies in Victoria have found that 40 per cent of small retailers sell cigarettes to children, and in some cases this has been as high as 70%.'
'The announcement of increased fines and a crackdown on unscrupulous retailers is an important measure that will protect the health of many children.'
'Research has shown that early uptake of smoking is associated with heavier smoking patterns, a lower likelihood of quitting, and a higher chance of becoming ill from a smoking related disease.'
'A child who starts smoking at 14 years or less is five times more likely to die of lung cancer than a person who starts aged 24, and 15 times more likely than someone who has never smoked.'
'Selling cigarettes is a responsibility not a right, and retailers have nothing to fear from these new measures if they are complying with the law.'
'But if retailers are putting illegal profits before their public health responsibilities to children, they should be caught, 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 - including test purchases by children - have greatly increased the proportion of retailers who abide by the law.
He said sustained enforcement activities on the NSW central coast over a six year period coincided with a one-third drop in smoking by children aged between 12 to 17.
'In Victoria, the City of Hobsons Bay has been a leader in ensuring retailers comply with the law, and it's not surprising that it has one of the lowest rates of children using tobacco.'
Mr Harper said involving children in test purchases was a commonly-used way of ensuring that retailers are complying with their legal obligations.
'In NSW, test purchases are done on a widespread basis and have resulted in 121 prosecutions compared to Victoria's 11.'
Mr Harper said in Melbourne a recent challenge to a prosecution on the grounds that test purchasing had been used to trap a retailer had been dismissed by the Supreme Court. Mr Harper said Supreme Court judge Justice Beach noted in his ruling that 'most reasonable members of the community would take the view that [the test purchase] was a most satisfactory way of attempting to stamp out the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors'.
Media Communications Manager