Sutherland Shire tobacconist cops three-month ban over spate of offences

Beware: Tobacconists are being warned not to flout the law.
Beware: Tobacconists are being warned not to flout the law.

Tobacco retailers in St George and Sutherland Shire are being warned they face heavy fines and even bans if caught selling illegal tobacco products.

The warning comes after a Sutherland Shire tobacconist was banned from selling any tobacco products for three months after being convicted of a spate of offences, including selling illegal cigarettes and supplying tobacco to a minor.

The South Eastern Sydney Local Health District said its Public Health Unit's Environmental Health Officers and Miranda Police issued the tobacconist with a Public Health Act Prohibition Order.

The proprietor was convicted and fined at Sutherland Local Court on August 27 and June 25 this year for selling illicit, under-the-counter packets of cigarettes that did not display the prescribed graphic health warnings.

The June 25 conviction also related to selling cigarettes to a minor and displaying smoking and vaping accessories that were visible to the public.

The ban is in place until November 28.

Public Health Unit director Professor Mark Ferson said the action followed complaints from a concerned resident, which led to the successful prosecution of the proprietor and subsequent ban.

"This retailer may be banned from selling tobacco products for 12 months if he is convicted again," Professor Ferson said.

"Plain packaging and graphic health warnings are effective in helping smokers quit.

"Illicit, black market tobacco, which is always sold much cheaper, encourages smoking."

Professor Ferson said authorised officers from the district's Public Health Unit closely monitor compliance with the legislation, conducting random inspections. If a breach is found they can issue warnings, seize tobacco or initiate prosecutions against retailers that break the law.

He warned tobacco retailers in the area they face heavy fines and bans if they are caught selling illicit tobacco or breaking other laws.

Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008, it is an offence to sell tobacco products without appropriate health warnings, sell tobacco and e-cigarettes and their accessories to minors, or sell single cigarettes.

The maximum penalty for a first offence is $11,000 for an individual, increasing to $55,000 for repeated breaches, and up to $110,000 for corporations.

The NSW Government, through the Cancer Institute NSW, has invested more than $70 million on anti-tobacco public education campaigns and tobacco control initiatives since 2014, while the NSW Ministry of Health and Cancer Institute NSW has invested $17.3 million on tobacco control this financial year.

This includes public awareness and education campaigns, quit smoking support, compliance and enforcement of strong smoke-free and retailing laws, and targeted programs for vulnerable groups with high smoking rates.