Proposal would increase tobacco sellers' age
The new legal age to sell tobacco products could soon be 21 instead of 15, if a new bill proposed by the Ministry of Health is passed.
The Tobacco Control Amendment Bill 2020 was raised in the pre-Parliament sitting on Monday 14 December 2020, and Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, Director General of the Ministry of Health gave a presentation on the changes.
The discussion is recorded in a pre-Sitting Briefing Summary published on the Parliament website.
Leausa explained M.O.H. intends to raise the legal age for tobacco product sale to 21 years, in part because international organisations have raised concerns over child labour, according to the briefing summary.
The move got a tick of approval from Associate Minister Salausa Dr. John Ah Ching, Member of Parliament for Faleata East and obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, who agreed with raising the legal age to 21.
According to the notes, Lenatai Victor Faafoi Tamapua from Vaimauga Sisifo No. 1 said he was worried about job opportunities for school leavers, many of whom are between 15 and 21 years old.
And Fuimaono Samuelu Teo said as well as the age of sale, the legal age for consumers of tobacco products needs to be considered.
“There have been instances where students and youngsters are consuming tobacco,” he said, according to the notes.
The current law was amended in January 2019 to make it illegal for anyone under 15 to sell tobacco products, and that breaches of the law would be liable to a fine of no more than 1000 penalty units (one penalty unit is $100, according to the Fines (Review and Amendment) Act 1998.
The new amendment bill would also introduce changes to tobacco manufacturing licenses, allowing the Government to take a three year license payment from a company in advance.
Namulauulu Sami Leota (Faasaleleaga No. 2)said licenses for tobacco manufacturing companies and the products they then sell are money makers for Samoa.
“A total of $55million was contributed by the industry into the economy of Samoa, $23million solely from excise tax on tobacco products,” he said, according to the notes.
“The Member noted the health risks associated to tobacco products and stated that it is the individual choice to consume tobacco or not.”
And Faasaleleaga No. 4 Member, Peseta Vaifou Tevagaena said imported tobacco products should be prohibited and only local tobacco sold, “as this does not have similar associated health risks as imported tobacco.”
The Member for Anoamaa East, Alaiasa Sepulona Moananu said there seem to be problems implementing and policing the Tobacco Control Act because he has seen people smoking on buses, which is currently prohibited.
The full bill is not yet available for public viewing.