From 6 April 2016, under the Tobacco Retailers Act (Northern Ireland) 2014, all retailers of tobacco products in Northern Ireland must be registered.
The new legislation is just one of a range of measures being introduced in order to reduce smoking prevalence amongst children and young people.
Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, said: “My Department is committed to tackling the high levels of premature death and preventable illness caused by tobacco. Most smokers take up the habit whilst still in their teens, before they are old enough to fully understand the consequences. While the majority of retailers in Northern Ireland are responsible and comply with age of sale tobacco laws, there are still a number who continue to sell cigarettes to children.”
Mr Hamilton continued: “The main aim behind introducing a tobacco register is to assist authorised officers in enforcing tobacco control legislation by providing them with details of tobacco retailers in their area. Members of the public will also be able to check online to verify whether their local retailer is registered.”
Registration is quick, easy and free. Retailers can either register online on the Tobacco Register NI homepage – http://www.tobaccoregisterni.gov.uk – or by paper on an application form available from the environmental departments of all district councils.
While the Tobacco Register NI website will be operational from 6 April, existing retailers have until 1 July 2016 to register. After this date it will be illegal to sell tobacco products if not registered to do so. Penalties for not being registered range from £500 if served with a fixed penalty notice to £5000 which is the maximum fine applicable on summary conviction.
Additional provisions under the Tobacco Retailers Act which also come into force from 6 April include the offence of proxy purchasing, that is, an adult buying tobacco products on behalf of a child and an increase in the maximum fine applicable for selling tobacco to a minor. This will rise from £2500 to £5000.