On 18 February 2014 the Northern Ireland Assembly passed the Tobacco Retailers Bill. The Bill will come into force as soon as it receives Royal Assent. The aim of the Bill is to discourage the sale of tobacco to children. To do so the Bill sets out a number of obligations and duties on retailers (which includes sale by way of cigarette machines on licensed premises) and local councils.
The Bill requires all tobacco retailers register with their relevant local council. The registration system is specified in the Bill and is quite simple. However there is also an obligation on tobacco retailers to notify the council of any changes in relation to their registered information such as a change in name or address, or if a person ceases to be a tobacco retailer within 3 months of any change occurring. Failure to register as a tobacco retailer business and/or notify any changes within the specified period would amount to an offence under the Tobacco Retailers Bill.
The main function of the Bill is to actively dissuade tobacco retailers from committing persistent offences. To do so, the Bill outlines that councils should take forward applications to enforce a 'restricted premises order' against a tobacco retailer when that retailer has committed three or more relevant offences within a three year period. These offences can either relate to the requirement to register as a tobacco retailer or any other offence, such as sale of tobacco to an underage person.
If a court upholds the application by the council and grants the restricted premises order the tobacco retailer would be restricted from selling tobacco or having any management functions in relation to the sale of tobacco for a period of up to one year. To assist council's in acting under this new legislation the Bill provides increased powers to the council including powers of entry and the ability to use fixed penalty notices.