I hate smoking and selfish smokers who force their cancer causing chemicals on other people against their will. Victorian law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors and health organisations work hard to make smoking socially unappealing. A month ago I published a story about how ineffective the City of Yarra has been in enforcing the law that prohibits retailers from selling cigarettes to children. In December 2009, 47% of businesses tested broke the law and sold cigarettes to underage customers working for the state health department to investigate compliance with the law.
After ignoring my previous email on the subject for nearly a month, City of Yarra CEO Andi Diamond has (after a repeat request) finally confirmed in writing that the City of Yarra has NEVER successfully prosecuted a business for repeatedly selling cigarettes to minors.
It sounds simple, obvious and logical that offending businesses should receive a repeat visit from an underage buyer to test whether the business has altered its behaviour and has started to take the law seriously. In its December 2009 press release, the City of Yarra states that “Re-offending retailers would be prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court where they would be subject to fines of up to $5,700.” But none have been prosecuted.
In its previous April 2009 press release it states “If tobacco retailers re-offend, Council intends to prosecute them in the Magistrates’ Court where they would be subject to fines of up to $5,700.” Does the City of Yarra really have any intent here? Is there any evidence of it demonstrating intent?
There are only so many tobacco retailers in the City of Yarra. It seems plausible to think that some retailers would have been tested more than once. Given the high rate of offending in December 2009, is it plausible to think that one or more of the offenders would have failed the test before. I suspect that some have failed repeatedly, but of course the City of Yarra refuses to release this information.
I believe one of the reasons for its secrecy is that the City of Yarra is failing to prosecute repeat offenders and it does not want this to become public knowledge. Its ineffective management of this issue is typical of its mismanagement of various social issues, from the public safety threat of community gardens to the funding of business lobby group websites with ratepayers’ money.
I hypothesise that public exposure of offending behaviour and effective prosecution of repeat offenders would significantly increase compliance with the law. But the big grocery and petrol chains (whose cigarette sales are highly profitable) are also big ratepayers in the City of Yarra. They appear able to buy the silence of local government, which seems content to issue press releases full of empty promises rather than taking action to address this serious problem.