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Tobacco vendors warned

Kevin Wilson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jun 15/01) - RCMP, Health Canada and the territorial Department of Finance are warning tobacco retailers to shape up.

The three agencies conducted an enforcement initiative in Yellowknife and Inuvik this past week to determine if tobacco retailers are complying with the Federal Tobacco Act. Specifically, they wanted to know if retailers were selling to people under the age of 18.

The results, according to their report, were "less than favourable."

Peter Thirnbeck, a tobacco control officer from Health Canada's Edmonton offices, conducted the checks.

Under his direction, an underaged "undercover shopper" was sent into various stores which sell tobacco. Almost one-quarter of the retailers sold tobacco to the undercover shopper.

While Thirnbeck said he was "pleased" that most retailers asked the shopper how old they were, only half of the retailers asked to see identification.

According to Cpl. Susan Munn, the RCMP's head of federal enforcement, that's not good enough.

"We encourage the use of proper identification," says Munn.

Gerry Gagnon is manager of the GNWT's taxation division. If retailers are caught selling tobacco to minors, his department can revoke their licence to sell smokes.

"If a person is found guilty (under the Tobacco Act), we can suspend their licence," says Gagnon. He adds that the department's approach is to suspend the licence of retailers who offend more than once, and then consider permanently revoking the licenses of chronic offenders.

Munn advises people who know of retailers selling to minors to contact their local RCMP detachment or Crime Stoppers.