The Sunoco Gas Bar on Ontario Street has been fined $1,500 for selling cigarettes to youth under the age of 19.
The store, operated by 1159476 Ontario Inc., was appealing a charge issued on October 2004.
This court ruling sets a precedent in Perth County. It is the first time that a retailer's argument of "due diligence" has been rejected in court.
The owner of the gas bar argued that the company did everything it could to ensure that cigarettes were not sold to minors. The judge rejected the argument saying that the store did not do enough to prevent tobacco sales to underage customers.
"This ruling sends a clear message to tobacco retailers in Perth County about complying with the law," says Lidija Halovanic, tobacco enforcement officer.
It is illegal to sell or supply tobacco to anyone under age 19.
To make sure tobacco vendors are following the law, the Health Unit sends underage test shoppers to stores to try and buy cigarettes. In the past, a store that sold cigarettes to the test shoppers received a warning along with additional training resources for its staff. If the store failed a second time, the clerk and store owner were both charged. The Sunoco Gas Bar sold cigarettes to underage test shoppers on two separate occasions.
As part of Ontario's Smoke-Free initiative, the Health Unit will continue its enforcement by sending out test shoppers into the community up to four times a year. However, a tobacco retailer will now be charged on a first offence. Warnings will no longer be issued.
"Anyone who sells cigarettes to an underage youth will be charged and subject to a fine. Store owners have a responsibility to comply with the law," says Halovanic. "This means putting systems in place that stop the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to minors."
Halovanic also stresses the importance of testing these systems to make sure they work. For more information, retailers can contact the Health Unit at 271-7600 ext 272. Listowel area residents call 1-877-271-7348 ext 272.