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Reducing access to tobacco for young people under age 18


Compliance checks and enforcement of legislation banning sales to young people under age 18 can reduce smoking prevalence in this group. Compliance checks involve a young person that appears to be under the legal age seeking to purchase tobacco products from a retailer. Retailers that comply with current legislation by refusing to sell tobacco receive a letter advising of the monitoring program and its outcome. Retailers that fail to comply can receive a warning letter or penalty. In general, penalties are increased for second and subsequent offences.

Evaluation Evidence

Evidence suggests that it is possible to reduce tobacco use in young people through the application of a combination of regulatory, early-intervention and harm-reduction approaches. A Cochrane Review of interventions to reduce tobacco sales to minors found evidence to support compliance checks and enforcement of legislation as effective strategies for restricting tobacco access for minors (Stead & Lancaster, 2005). A Sydney study which sent retailers a warning letter threatening prosecution if they failed to comply with legislation resulted in a second offence rate of 31% compared to 60% amongst retailers who had not been warned.

Monitoring Recommendations

Variations of this strategy currently operate in each state, coordinated through the state health departments. Boards that have evidence that tobacco is being sold to minors can apply to work with their relevant state authorities to implement increase tobacco sales monitoring.


Victoria P: (03) 9663 7777

QLD: Queensland Health Call Centre
P: 13 74 68

WA: Tobacco Control Branch, DoH
P: 1300 784 892

NSW: Tobacco Information Line
P: 1800 357 412

TAS: QUIT Tasmania
P: (03) 6228 2921 ACT:

Cancer Council ACT
P: (02) 6257 9999

SA: Tobacco Surveillance, DoH
P: 1300 363 703

NT: SmokeFreeNT, DoH
P: 1800 888 564

Program details
Target Audience: 
11 - 17 years
Target Risk Factors: 
  • Community disorganisation
  • Perceived availabiliy of drugs (tobacco)
  • Laws and norms favourable to drug use
Community Indicators: 
  • Tobacco sales to young people under age 18
  • High rates of youth tobacco use