Tobacco licence for 7-Eleven shop revoked

The tobacco licence of the 7-Eleven store at Cineleisure has been permanently revoked by the HSA after an employee was found to have sold tobacco products to someone under 18 years old, the second time it has happened at this outlet.
The tobacco licence of the 7-Eleven store at Cineleisure has been permanently revoked by the HSA after an employee was found to have sold tobacco products to someone under 18 years old, the second time it has happened at this outlet.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The 7-Eleven store at Cineleisure Orchard has been permanently barred from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products - the first time that such action has been taken against an outlet of the major chain of convenience stores.

The outlet's licence was revoked by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on July 31 after an employee was caught selling cigarettes to a minor on Nov 16, 2013 - the second time this occurred at that particular outlet. It was first suspended for six months in 2011 for selling cigarettes to someone under 18 years old.

In a statement yesterday, the HSA said: "Despite its previous conviction, the outlet continued to commit the offence... It will no longer be allowed to sell tobacco products."

It added that the time lag between the discovery of the errant act and the licence being revoked was on account of the thorough investigations that had to be undertaken.

The Straits Times also understands that the 7-Eleven franchisee had made several appeals against the decision.

Four other retailers - Hwa Soon Heng Mini-Supermarket in Yishun, Tastebud Foodcourt in Queen Street, J Plus Ten Mini Mart in Bukit Batok West, and Nice Minimart in Tampines - were caught in HSA's enforcement actions from November 2013 to August last year.

Their tobacco retail licences were suspended for six months as they were first-time offenders.

When contacted, 7-Eleven said the employee who had sold the packet of cigarettes to the minor has been sacked. A warning letter was also sent to the franchisee for failing to comply with regulations.

An auto-prompt system has also been rolled out at 7-Eleven's more than 450 outlets here. Now, when a cigarette packet is scanned at the point-of-sale, staff have to check the customer's identification card and key in his date of birth.

"If there is no birth date typed into the system, the sale cannot be made," said a 7-Eleven spokesman. "We want to prevent future lapses."

The system came about after a review of operating procedures following the 2013 incident. Tobacco sales make up a "significant portion" of revenue at the Cineleisure outlet, she added.

In the last three years, 39 tobacco retail licences have been suspended and 18 revoked.

The HSA reminded tobacco retailers that they are responsible for all transactions taking place at their outlets, as well as for their staff's actions.

It also reminded licensees to educate sellers to check the age of those who wish to buy tobacco products.

Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, anyone caught selling tobacco products to persons below the age of 18 can be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence and up to $10,000 for subsequent offences.

The retailer's tobacco licence will be suspended for six months for the first offence and revoked for the second. But if any outlet is found to have sold such products to minors in school uniform or those below 12 years old, their licence will be revoked at the first offence.

The HSA also encourages anyone with information on the illegal sales of tobacco products to minors to call the Tobacco Regulation Branch on 6684-2036 or 6684-2037 during office hours.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Tobacco licence for 7-Eleven shop revoked'. Print Edition | Subscribe