November 19, 2007
Media Release

Restricting youth access to tobacco still a concern in York Region

Eight-year old boy successfully purchases cigarettes from local convenience store
NEWMARKET Tobacco sales to underage youth continues to be a concern in York Region despite 
the provincial average of tobacco use among youth aged 15 to 19 decreasing from 25 per cent in 2000 to 17 per cent in 2004.
The Regional Municipality of York's Community and Health Services department reviewed a recent report of an eight-year old boy who successfully purchased cigarettes from a local convenience store on two separate occasions.
Tobacco vendors are routinely surveyed to monitor compliance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.  Following Ministry protocol, all tobacco vendors are visited at least twice per year to determine their willingness to sell tobacco products to underage youth.  Test shoppers between the ages of 15 and 17 are employed by The Regional Municipality of York's Community and Health Services to assist with the survey.  If a sale occurs when a test shopper attempts to purchase tobacco, a tobacco enforcement officer enters the premise, educates the owner and clerks about the legislation and lays charges.
"As one of the first municipalities to implement a no-smoking by-law in 2001, York Region has been working towards creating a healthier community," said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch.  "While we have been witness to much progress, our work to promote awareness and enforcement of the
Smoke-Free Ontario Act will continue.
Selling tobacco products to youth under the age of 19 is illegal under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.   This Act came into effect on May 31, 2006 and includes measures to strengthen restrictions for youth access to tobacco products, including prohibiting vendors who contravene the law from selling tobacco products.  It also prohibits smoking and holding lighted tobacco in all enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places in Ontario.
"If youth don't have cigarettes, they can't smoke them.  It is as simple as that," said City of Vaughan Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio, Chair of the Region's Health and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Committee.  "We must continue to educate tobacco vendors and enforce legislation that restricts youth access to tobacco products."
"Every 10 minutes two teenagers in Ontario start smoking cigarettes," said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region's Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs.  "And worse, tobacco smoke kills 37,000 people in Canada every year."
Upon receipt of the recent tobacco sale report, the tobacco enforcement unit and a test shopper visited the convenience store in question.  The test shopper was successful in securing a sale and the premise was subsequently charged. 
An automatic prohibition of tobacco sales can be applied if a tobacco vendor is convicted on two or more occasions of selling tobacco products to persons under the age of 19 years within a five-year period. 
A prohibition order excludes the vendor from selling or storing tobacco products and bans all tobacco wholesalers or distributors from delivering tobacco products to the vendor for the period of time indicated on the order.  All tobacco products must also be removed from the premise. 
In accordance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act regulations, signage indicating the reason for the prohibition must be publicly posted in the premise. 
Since the implementation of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, prohibition orders have been delivered to four York Region tobacco vendors.  All four vendors were subject to a six-month prohibition.
York Region Community and Health Services will continue to closely monitor sales to minors at this location and if two convictions are registered, an application of prohibition to the Ontario Minister of Health Promotion will be issued.  
York Region encourages residents to call and report any vendor selling tobacco and tobacco-related products to under-age youth.  All calls are confidential. 
To report a vendor or for more information on this or any other health-related topic, please contact York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
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Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, Community and Health Services, York Region
 Phone:  905 830-4444, ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell 905 716-2717

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