Tesco spared conviction for selling cigs to 17-year-old

Sale took place at their store in the Omni Park Shopping Centre, in Santry in Dublin
Sale took place at their store in the Omni Park Shopping Centre, in Santry in Dublin

TESCO Ireland has been spared a conviction and avoided a three-day ban on selling tobacco products after a 17-year-old test purchaser managed to buy a pack of cigarettes.

The company was summonsed to appear at Dublin District Court to face a charge under the Public Health Tobacco Act for selling a tobacco product to a person under the age of 18 at their store in the Omni Park Shopping Centre, in Santry in Dublin on Oct. 29 last.

Tesco pleaded guilty in May in the prosecution which was brought by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The case had been adjourned until yesterday (MON) for Tesco to give €1,000 to charity. Failure to donate the money would result in a conviction, a €500 and a three-day cessation of their registration allowing them to sell tobacco products, the company had been warned.

When the case resumed on Monday, Judge Judge O'Neill noted the donation had been made and he strucke out the case.

During the hearing in May, the court heard an environmental health officer carried out a test purchase with the assistance of a volunteer minor, a 17-year-old girl.

The teenager approached the counter and was sold a packet of John Player Blue cigarettes by the sales assistant who did not ask her for identification or her age.

The court heard that test purchases encourage vigilance and protect children from the dangers of cigarettes. Tesco Ireland had one prior conviction in 2002 for a similar offence.

The offence can result in fines of up t €4,000 and an order suspending a retailer from being allowed sell tobacco products for up to three months. An individual convicted of the offence can also face a fine as well as a maximum three-month sentence.

Tesco had also agreed to pay the prosecution costs.

Tesco Ireland's solicitor had asked the court to note that their stores have 150,000 sales of tobacco products a week. Test purchases happen regularly, there have been four so far this year and the company's previous record was almost exemplary, he said.

The company said it has a rigorous training programme for staff in relation to sale of cigarettes . The court heard they have a “think 21 policy” meaning that anyone who looks under the age of 21 should be checked for ID before they will be sold cigarettes.

The staff member, who sold the pack to the teenage test purchaser, had a lapse of concentration as a result of having to care for a sick relative at the time. The worker was spared a conviction and given the Probation Act earlier.