Key Points:

    Finding three outlets willing to sell cigarettes in the Far North in an underage sting has disappointed health officials.

The latest undercover sting operation to check on whether retailers will sell cigarettes to minors has produced a disappointing result in the Far North, with three of 13 outlets tested failing.

Earlier this month Smoke-free Enforcement Officers at Northland District Health Board conducted a Controlled Purchase Operation (CPO) at Far North tobacco retailers and were very disappointed with the result.

The stores visited were in Ahipara, Kaitaia and Awanui.

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The operation resulted in three sales from the 13 Far North tobacco retailers' tested by the smoke-free enforcement staff, Jo Dones, Smoke-free Enforcement Officer for Northland DHB said.

"This is a very disappointing result from the 13 premises tested,'' Dones said.

"These sales should not be occurring. Retailers are aware that selling tobacco to our children is a breach of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, (the Act). If they look under 25 years of age, ask for photo identification. No photo identification, no sale.

''It really is that simple. This is about protecting our young people from the harmful and addictive effects of tobacco, which ultimately causes early death in 50 per cent of smokers."

CPO's will continue to be conducted randomly during the year, as required by the Ministry of Health, to ensure compliance with the Act.

The maximum fine for selling to minors is $2000. Details regarding those retailers who sold to a minor during the CPO will be forwarded to the Ministry of Health for a decision on further action.

Any retailers requiring assistance with staff training and information can contact Smokefree Enforcement Officers, at Northland District Health Board (09) 430 4100.

Toki Rau Stop Smoking Services Northland revealed in the Northern Advocate in May that Northland's roughly 30,000 smokers spend around $147,694,353 a year on tobacco products.