Tesco Ireland must donate €1,000 to a court poor-box to avoid a three-day ban on selling tobacco products after a 17-year-old test purchaser managed to buy a pack of cigarettes.
The company was summonsed to appear at Dublin District Court to face a charge under the Public Health Tobacco Act for selling a tobacco product to a person under the age of 18 at their store in the Omni Park Shopping Centre in Dublin on October 29 last.
The prosecution was brought by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the company pleaded guilty to the charge today.
The HSE's solicitor Sean O'Donnell told Judge William Hamill that an environmental health officer carried out a test purchase with the assistance of a volunteer minor, a 17-year-old girl.
The teenager approached the counter and was sold a packet of John Player Blue cigarettes by the sales assistant who did not ask her for identification or her age.
Mr O'Donnell said the test purchases are done to encourage vigilance and to protect children from the dangers of cigarettes.
He said Tesco Ireland had one prior conviction in 2002 for a similar offence.
The offence can result in fines of up to €4,000 and an order suspending a retailer from being allowed sell tobacco products for up to three months.
An individual convicted of the offence can also face a fine as well as a maximum three-month sentence.
Mr O'Donnell also said the supermarket company will pay the prosecution costs.
Tesco Ireland's solicitor asked the court to note that their stores have 150,000 sales of tobacco products a week.
Test purchases happen regularly, there have been four so far this year and the company's previous record was almost exemplary, he said.
They have a rigorous training programme for staff in relation to sale of cigarettes, the court was told.
Judge Hamill heard they have a “think 21 policy” meaning that anyone who looks under the age of 21 should be checked for ID before they will be sold cigarettes.
The staff member, who sold the pack to the teenage test purchaser, had a lapse of concentration as a result of having to care for a sick relative at the time. The worker was spared a conviction and given the Probation Act.
Judge Hamill adjourned the case against Tesco Ireland until September saying they must give €1,000 to the court's poor-box and the case would be struck out.
Failure to donate the money will result in a conviction, a €500 fine and a three-day cessation of their registration allowing them to sell tobacco products.