Our Smokes shame
By JADE BILOWOL
POLICE should not enforce a crackdown on Gold Coast retailers selling cigarettes to minors.
This is the call from a Queensland Cancer Fund spokesman, who said public health officers should oversee proposed tough penalties to smoke out retailers selling cigarettes to children.
Due to come into force on December 31 next year, the law includes an automatic suspension on offending retailers from selling cigarettes.
The Queensland spokesman welcomed the proposed anti-smoking laws, saying action must be taken following a study that revealed 85 per cent of Gold Coast tobacco retailers were selling tobacco to under 18s.
"The laws have been enforced by public health officers and should continue to be," the spokesman said.
"The fines for the retailers have been a few hundred dollars, which is a slap on the wrist, and retailers have been willing to run the risk.
"From our records there have been only seven fines issued in the past six years.
"The teeth of the new law will be the mandatory ban from the supply of cigarettes because people also buy their milk, newspaper and bread at the same time and will go somewhere else if they can't get their cigarettes."
A spokesman for Queensland Health Minister Gordon Nuttal said the penalties and enforcement responsibilities were still being determined.
The spokesman said it was anticipated anti-smoking laws would pave the way for prosecution similar to liquor licensing laws.
"It will be at least another fortnight before the minister takes a complete proposal to Cabinet and this will answer quite a few questions," the spokesman said.
"(The Health Department) is working with many stakeholders to determine how to enforce the new legislation - we currently have 60 environmental health officers and it will be decided whether to put on more as well as the roles of the stakeholders.
"It would involve a large education program."
The recent University of Queensland study, commissioned by the Queensland Cancer Fund, highlighted the Gold Coast was the worst region in the state at complying with laws banning the sale of cigarettes to minors.
The study involved supervised 16-year-olds attempting to buy cigarettes at 1017 retail outlets across the state, succeeding on all but 430 occasions.
The study found only 14.5 per cent of the Gold Coast retailers requested ID and only 7.5 per cent asked the purchaser their age.