• Selling cigarettes to minors unlawful

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    Dear PAO,
    I caught my minor son puffing a cigarette. When I asked him where he got the cigarette, he mentioned that he bought it from a store near his school. I went to the store to verify my son’s story and found out that the store indeed sells cigarettes. Is a store near a school allowed to sell cigarettes?
    Myka

    Dear Myka,
    Your query can be answered by Republic Act (RA) 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, which regulates the packaging, use, sale, distribution and advertisements of cigarettes and other tobacco products. One of the main objectives of the law is to protect the youth from being initiated into cigarette smoking and tobacco use by prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors (Section 3, Ibid.), obviously, in order to protect minors against harmful effects of tobacco products at such a young age.

    To enforce this policy, a portion of the law is specifically designed to strictly restrict access by minors to tobacco products. This includes the prohibition of sale and distribution of tobacco products within one hundred (100) meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, public playground or other facility frequented particularly by minors (Section 10, Id.). Perimeter, as defined by the implementing rules and regulations of the law, refers to any point in the boundaries as indicated in the Original Certificate of Title or Transfer Certificate of Title of the tract of land that is actually used or occupied by a school, public playground or other facility frequented particularly by persons below eighteen (18) years of age, whether the tract of land is separated from adjacent tracts by a wall or fence (IAC-Tobacco Memorandum Circular No. 1, s. 2004).

    Based on the foregoing, if the store near the school of your son is located within the 100-meter prohibited area, then it is not allowed to sell cigarette. If it violates this prohibition, the responsible persons may be prosecuted for violation of Section 10 of the law, and punished by fine of at least Five Thousand Pesos (Php5,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than thirty (30) days. Further, its business license or permit will also be revoked if the store has been previously punished for the same offense (Section 32 (b), RA 9211). On the contrary, if the store is located outside the 100-meter prohibited area, then they may offer or sell cigarette.

    Nevertheless, regardless of its proximity to the school, the store still violated the law and may be prosecuted, albeit under a different provision. Section 9 of the law expressly declares it unlawful for any retailer of tobacco products to sell or distribute tobacco products to any minor irrespective of the place, time or other circumstances surrounding the sale. Such violation carries a penalty of fine of not less than five thousand pesos (Php5,000.00) or imprisonment of not more than thirty (30) days if it is his first offense with the additional penalty of revocation of business licenses or permits for succeeding offenses (Section 32, Ibid.).

    We hope you find this opinion useful. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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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