More than 60 percent of stores in the nation have been found to violate the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) and sell tobacco products to minors, according to a latest report published by the Consumers’ Foundation.
The legally recognized age in Taiwan is 20 years old.
The report, commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said betel nut stands and convenient stores were the most common offenders, adding that among convenience stores, OK-mart was the worst offender, with 57.1 percent of its stores selling tobacco products to minors.
Hi-Life came in second at 52.9 percent, and 7-Eleven and Family
Mart came in third and fourth at 47.9 and 42.2 percent respectively, the report said.
The poll took samples from 22 counties and cities from May to October last year, Feng Tsung-yi (馮宗蟻), head of the ministry’s division of health education and prevention of tobacco control said.
“We looked at a total of 550 locations — including the four largest convenience store chains, supermarket chains, hypermarkets, betel nut stands and traditional convenience stores — and gauged the reaction of clerks at the counter when customers — ranging from 18-year-old college students to high-school students still wearing their uniforms — bought cigarettes,” Feng said.
Betel nut stands were the worst offenders over all, with 78.4 percent of stands willing to sell cigarettes to minors, Feng said, adding that traditional convenience stores were the second worst, coming in at 67.3 percent.
The poll results show that the percentage of offenders is appallingly high, and the offenders among the four largest convenience store chains have increased last year’s average of 29.3 percent across all four stores to 47.8 percent this year, an increase of 18.5 percentage points, Feng said.
It is the largest increase among tobacco retailers, Feng said.
According to the law, violators selling tobacco products to minors under 18 years of age can be fined a maximum of NT$50,000.
In response, OK-Mart said it would step up its training regimen and increase the policing of its retail branches.
Hi-Life said that newly joined stores have all been given training on the proper handling and sales of tobacco products, adding that the chain took special care in reinforcing the rules for stores near schools.
Meanwhile 7-Eleven and FamilyMart said they strictly enforced the rule that retail branches must not sell tobacco products to minors.