Forum: Undercover checks on stores can help stub out cigarette sales to teens

A man holding a cigarette under a shelter during a rainy day.
A man holding a cigarette under a shelter during a rainy day.PHOTO: ST FILE

On Jan 1, the legal age for smoking was raised from 19 to 20 and this legally marks the end of teenage smoking in Singapore.

However, despite legislation on the smoking age, some underage young people will still try all sorts of methods to get their hands on tobacco products. One way would be to try their luck at a store.

While I am aware that there are enforcement rounds conducted by Health Sciences Authority officers to observe and stop any illegal sale of tobacco products to minors, I do feel that there is a more effective deterrent.

To ensure that all retailers are complying with the age prohibition, the authorities could consider having a programme in which youth volunteers go unannounced to various retail outlets that sell tobacco products and attempt to buy tobacco products with the purpose of apprehending any errant retailer.

This could deter tobacco retailers and their employees from selling to underage young people, and be more prudent when selling by requesting identification documents to verify the age of the customers.

Such a method has proven effective in the United States, for example, where all tobacco retailers are subjected to at least two surprise minor compliance checks a year by state or federal agencies.

Wee Yan Loong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2020, with the headline 'Undercover checks on stores can help stub out cigarette sales to teens'. Print Edition | Subscribe