A National Approach for Reducing Access to Tobacco in Australia by Young People under 18 Years of Age

2. Key elements in a national best practice model for reducing young people's access to tobacco

Key elements in a national best practice mdoel for reducing young people's access to tobacco - A National Approach for Reducing Access to Tobacco in australia by Young People under 18 Years of Age

Page last updated: 26 April 2012

The National Tobacco Strategy identified the need for a national best practice model for reducing the availability and supply of tobacco to young people. The National Approach for Reducing Young People’s Access to Tobacco in Australia identifies six key elements for a comprehensive and effective sales to minors program. These have been developed from an examination of Australian and international literature discussed in Section 1.6 and following a process of consultations with a range of key stakeholder organisations within each Australian State and Territory.

These elements are:

  • legislation;
  • monitoring and enforcement;
  • prosecution;
  • education and training programs;
  • community action; and
  • evaluation.

2.1 Legislation

Strong legislation underpins an effective strategy to reduce the sale of tobacco to young people.

This legislation should:
  • define the age at which a person can legally be sold a tobacco product;
  • enable formal proof of age to be requested;
  • identify the authority responsible for enforcement;
  • provide for the prosecution of the seller, owner and/or manager (license holder);
  • provide for significant penalties to encourage retailer compliance; and
  • include offences for sale and supply of tobacco to children.
Some organisations have called for an offence for purchase, possession and use of tobacco by young people to be included in legislation. The tobacco industry has also advocated that minors should be penalised for the purchase and possession of tobacco. There is concern that this would have little public health benefit and would redirect limited resources available for enforcement efforts from the adult community to young people.

2.2 Monitoring and enforcement

Legislation alone will not ensure that young people’s access to tobacco is reduced. A systematic and comprehensive program of monitoring and enforcement is critical. Regular compliance checks involving the participation of youth volunteers are the most effective, least costly and practical means for monitoring illegal cigarette sales to children, a position endorsed by authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and most States and Territories of Australia. However, the practice of compliance monitoring remains a contentious issue for some Australian jurisdictions and to ensure that these activities are managed both appropriately and effectively, clear protocols must be provided. Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have developed policies, procedural guidelines and protocols which outline recommended processes for the selection, training and recruitment of young people in compliance monitoring activities and for obtaining parental consent. These procedures are also included in the training programs for enforcement agencies and community education programs.

2.3 Prosecution

There is a need for prosecutions to occur so that the retailers and the public can see that the law is being enforced. Prosecutions demonstrate that governments are serious about reducing the illegal sale of tobacco to young people. Prosecutions should be supported by other strategies such as retailer education, community action and warning notices. As well, publicity programs that inform the community and retailers of enforcement operations and prosecutions should be undertaken at the same time.
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2.4 Education programs and training

Comprehensive sales to minors programs should include education and training activities for a range of key groups within the community. Sales to minors initiatives that include education programs and which support enforcement activities have been shown to decrease illegal sales of tobacco to young people significantly.

Key groups for education and training programs are:
  • Agencies including health, police and local governments responsible for enforcement and monitoring activities. These groups should be provided with information resources and training in order to inform them about the legislation and procedures for appropriate enforcement activities and for ensuring that immediate and effective action is taken when non-compliance is detected.
  • Key members of the judiciary system such as magistrates and prosecutors. These officers should be provided with information about public health issues relating to young people and smoking, youth access issues, compliance and monitoring practices and the community’s attitude and support for effective enforcement of sales to minors legislative programs;
  • Retailers who sell tobacco products. It is important that tobacco retailers are informed about their obligations under the legislation and the penalties for non-compliance. As well, education programs should include publicity about compliance monitoring activities and prosecutions.
  • Community members. It is important that the community is made aware of the current level of youth access to and use of tobacco in their community, the impact this issue has on the health of young people. As well, they should be provided with information about how to report breaches of the law and support the enforcement activities being undertaken in their community.
  • Young people. Educational programs that target young people should be undertaken both within the school and the general community. These programs are important as they provide young people with information about tobacco control and public health issues, existing laws regarding the sale and supply of cigarettes to minors, and they provide information on how to report breaches of the law and support enforcement strategies.

2.5 Community action

Raising the public’s awareness and enlisting and maintaining their support are essential for a comprehensive enforcement strategy.

Important components of community action approaches are:
  • involving the community in the design and implementation of local strategies to reduce tobacco use by young people;
  • generating and disseminating regular publicity about the issue, compliance monitoring activities and prosecutions within the community;
  • enlisting the support of key community persons and agencies that can make an impact on the issue within the community;
  • involving young people in the development of local strategies; and
  • obtaining the community’s support for the enforcement and monitoring initiatives undertaken by police, health services and others in their local community.

2.6 Evaluation

Sales to minors programs are only one component of a comprehensive approach to reducing youth smoking. Evaluating the effectiveness of the range of strategies used to reduce youth smoking rates is a critical long-term outcome.

The effectiveness of comprehensive sales to minors programs should continue to be evaluated against both immediate and long-term goals. Regular surveys that measure:
  • youth smoking rates;
  • youth access to tobacco products;
  • the sources of cigarettes supplied to young people;
  • the number of cigarettes smoked; and
  • surveys that monitor sales through vending machines
are important indicators of the achievements of the program. As well, compliance surveys that monitor the illegal selling rates to young people, attitudinal surveys that involve retailers, young people and the general community are also important evaluation tools.

The effectiveness of individual components of the sales to minors program should also be assessed in order to track the influence they have on the overall program. Evaluation programs that provide regular reports on:
  • the number of compliance checks undertaken by enforcement agencies;
  • the number of training programs conducted;
  • the number of resources produced and disseminated;
  • the level of usage of resources and education program by schools, retailers and community groups;
  • the amount of publicity generated; and
  • the level of participation of the public in local community action strategies
are important process measures for measuring the effectiveness of components of sales to minors programs.
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