By Rhealyn C. Pojas
Thirty-four out of 52 stores in Palau were cited for selling tobacco products to minors according to the result of the joint operation conducted by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) from December 2017 to January this year.
Among the stores subjected to the operation, one was found to have not displayed the RPPL 8-27 sign as mandated by Section 10 of the law otherwise known as the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The operation which was dubbed as the “Controlled Buy Operation” was conducted among retail stores in Airai, Koror, and Babaeldaob with the collaboration of the members of the prevention unit of the MOH and officers from the Bureau of Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Public Safety.
The MOJ and MOH urged business establishments that sell tobacco and alcohol products to be mindful of the laws and regulations.
According to the MOJ, the operations were executed in accordance with a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health in order to ensure the protection of the youth of Palau from the dangerous harms of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and thus reducing health problems inclusive of mental, emotional, and behavioral health.
The MOJ further asked business owners to check identification for legal age requirements, display the signs required by RPPL 8-27 at all times, and also refrain from selling tobacco and alcohol to minors.
In an interview with Justice Minister and Vice President Raynold Oilouch yesterday, he said that aside from citations, there are serious consequences for those who will be found violating the law such as the revocation of the licenses to operate their businesses.
Some business operators in Babeldaob however reacted that they felt that the operation was conducted like an entrapment but Minister Oilouch was quick to say that if these complaining operators followed the laws, they would not feel that way.
“We have a very strict law on the sale of tobacco products to underage and so what was done was that we need to enforce the laws, we need to make sure that these stores, wherever they are, they needed to abide with the laws,” Oilouch said in the interview.
“Most of the businesses in Palau are not complying with the very stringent law and I’m sorry that they feel that way but that’s the law. If you want to do business, you have to do it right,” Oilouch added.
For those who are also justifying that some adults were just actually asking children to buy cigarettes and alcohol on their behalf, Oilouch said that this is not an excuse.
“We have a very stringent law. Lack of understanding of the law is absolutely not an excuse… And for adults who are asking children to buy tobacco or cigarette, I think that adult has a serious problem,” Oilouch said.
The public must also expect that more operations will be conducted on this as Oilouch said that they will conduct more operations in the future which they will do randomly. [/restrict]