Northland Health Officials were very disappointed three Northland retailers were prepared to sell cigarettes to minors in a controlled purchase operation.

Conducted by Northland District Health Board's Public and Population Health Unit, the two CPOs tested 27 tobacco retailers; 17 in the Kaipara and 10 in the Mid North.

Two retailers in the Mid North and one in the Kaipara were found in breach of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 after selling tobacco products to purchasers under the age of 18.

Clair Mills, Northland Medical Officer of Health, said smoking is the biggest single direct contributor to preventable ill health and deaths in Northland.

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"It's unacceptable that retailers are selling cigarettes to under age young people in Northland today. At least 50 per cent of people who smoke will die from smoking related causes. To reach our goal of being smokefree by 2025, everybody has to change their behaviour, including retailers," Dr Mills said.

NDHB Smokefree Officer, Jo Dones said the Act is not new legislation and retailers should be aware that selling tobacco product to children is in breach of the Act. This operation revealed that a number of retailers have poor systems in place and considerable improvement is required to avoid further breaches.

"If they look under 25, ask for photo identification. No photo identification, no sale. Make sure the age is calculated correctly when ID is produced. This will prevent sales to our underage children," Ms Dones said.

All information relating to the sales of tobacco product to the underage volunteers has been forwarded to the Ministry of Health further action. This may include fines or prosecutions and repeat offenders being ordered unable to sell tobacco products. The maximum fine for selling to minors is up to $2,000.

CPO's are conducted as required by the Ministry of Health, using under aged volunteers who attempt to purchase tobacco products from retailers under controlled conditions.