• It is illegal to sell, and even buy tobacco products from a minor


    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I have a question concerning our laws on sale of cigarettes. Is it not prohibited to sell cigarettes to children? I ask this question as I see a lot of children puffing a cigarette. Some get the cigarettes just outside their school campus.

    Dear Melvin,
    To be sure, selling cigarettes to children is strictly prohibited by law. Republic Act (RA) 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 regulates the packaging, use, sale, distribution and advertisements of tobacco products. One of its main concerns is to “[p]rotect the youth from being initiated to cigarette smoking and tobacco use by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors” (Sec. 3 (e), RA 9211).

    In connection with this concern, RA 9211 expressly declared it illegal to sell, and even buy tobacco products from a minor. It states:

    “SECTION 9. Minimum Age Sales.—Under this Act, it shall be unlawful:

    a. For any retailer of tobacco products to sell or distribute tobacco products to any minor;

    b. For any person to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products from a minor;

    c. For a minor to sell or buy cigarettes or any tobacco product; and

    d. For a minor to smoke cigarettes or any other tobacco products.

    It shall not be a defense for the person selling or distributing that he/she did not know or was not aware of the real age of the minor. Neither shall it be a defense that he/she did not know nor had any reason to believe that the cigarette or any other tobacco product was for the consumption of the minor to whom it was sold.”

    Thus, it is crystal-clear that it is illegal to sell cigarettes to a minor. If a person does so, he becomes criminally liable under RA 9211. The violator cannot set in the defense that he did not know of the real age of the minor as the law deprives him of such defense. In fact, the law even requires retailers to verify the age of the buyer, by means of any valid form of photographic identification containing the date of birth of the bearer, in case of doubt. (Sec. 12, Ibid.)

    To further protect minors, the law also prohibits the sale of tobacco products near schools. The law states that “[t]he sale or distribution of tobacco products is prohibited within one hundred (100) meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, public playground or other facility frequented particularly by minors. (Sec. 10, Id.) Thus, the mere fact of selling cigarettes near schools or other facilities frequented by minors is penalized by the law even if the retailer does not sell his products to minors.

    Note that violations of the above-quoted provisions are penalized by fine amounting to not less than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than thirty (30) days upon the discretion of the court on the first offense, and both penalties with corresponding revocation of business licenses or permits for succeeding offenses. If the violation is by an establishment of business entity, the owner, president, manager or the most senior officers thereof shall be held liable for the offense. (Sec. 32, Id.)

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net


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