New register for tobacco retailers

Date published: 24 March 2016

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 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.

Notes to editors: 

  1. A link to detailed guidance for retailers can be found on the DHSSPS website.
  2. The Tobacco Retailers Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 was granted Royal Assent in March 2014. The main provisions of the Act:
    • require all tobacco retailers to register;
    • provide that retailers may be banned from selling tobacco for a set period of time following 3 relevant tobacco offences within 5 years;
    • create a number of new offences, including those relating to the register and the offence of proxy purchasing; and
    • allow for the application of fixed penalty notices for a number of tobacco offences.
  3. The provisions in relation to banning orders and the application of fixed penalty notices will commence from 1 July.
  4. For the purposes of the Act, Belfast City Council has been established through regulations as the registration authority.
  5. Smoking kills around 2,300 people in Northern Ireland each year. Smoking prevalence for adults is currently 22% and 5% of 11-16 year olds are current smokers. Half of all regular smokers die as a result of a smoking-related illness.
  6. Media queries to DHSSPS Information Office on 028 9052 0074, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be immediately returned

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