Cigarette sting turns up heat on Monash retailers

EIGHT Monash businesses have been caught illegally selling cigarettes to minors.

In a sting aimed at stamping out the sale of cigarettes to the underage, Monash Council hired a 16-year-old boy to buy cigarettes from 20 local businesses.

But the council's crackdown failed where it counted, say anti-smoking campaigners who claim Monash was not tough enough with the penalties imposed.

Eight stores sold cigarettes to the teen but only two will be fined $563. One, in Mt Waverley, had a record for selling to minors. The second, in Glen Waverley, had complaints against it for selling to underage buyers.

The other six stores will receive a letter threatening fines if they re-offend. Monash Council refused to identify the offending retailers.

QUIT Victoria's acting executive director Luke Atkin said it was disappointing to see almost half the retailers tested were selling cigarettes to minors. "It's great to see the City of Monash conducting compliance testing, but it would be even better if that testing was backed up by financial penalties for all retailers who do the wrong thing," he said.

Monash Council has also asked the federal government to investigate the Glen Waverley store for selling cigarettes in breach of plain-packaging laws.

The council said the cigarettes sold at the Glen Waverley store came in a regular pack with "Asian writing". It appeared to be imported.

Monash mayor Micaela Drieberg said a similar exercise in 2012 found no retailers willing to sell cigarettes to minors. "We've got to do what we can to uphold the law and stop the supply of cigarettes to young people," Cr Drieberg said.

"We can't allow a retailer to bypass laws that are in place to discourage smoking.

"We don't want our young people to go on and join the ranks of the 15,000 Australians who die each year from smoking related diseases."

Mr Atkin said that despite teenage smoking being at an all-time low, a survey in 2011 showed that one in five teenage smokers in 2011 bought their previous cigarette themselves.

"Hopefully, this latest round of compliance testing will serve as a reminder to retailers of the important part they play in our community-wide effort to reduce tobacco's toll."

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