Cigarettes and The Law
Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (January 2018), however may change without notice.
Cigarettes and Young People
It is not illegal for young people under 18 years to smoke cigarettes. However, there are laws which try to limit young people’s access to cigarettes which include penalties for selling and supplying cigarettes to young people, and confiscating cigarettes from young people.
Keep in mind that laws to do with smoking apply to more than just cigarettes— they apply to various other tobacco products and even any product that does not contain tobacco but is designed for smoking.
What age can I buy cigarettes? What if someone else gives them to me?
It is against the law for anyone to sell or give cigarettes to you if you are under 18 years old.
It is also against the law to sell or supply a young person with any other type of tobacco products such as a cigar, snuff, or anything that a tobacco product is contained in (such as a cigarette packet).
Even if a product doesn’t actually contain tobacco, the law says that it is illegal to sell or supply that product to someone under 18 years old if it’s designed to be smoked.
Do I have to show identification (ID) if I get asked for it?
The shop keeper can ask you to show evidence of your age if you try to buy cigarettes and they think that you might be underage. Drivers Licences and Proof of Age cards can be used for ID.
It is against the law to lie about your age or use a fake ID to buy cigarettes. You can be fined for doing so, and the police may confiscate the fake ID.
If someone sells a young person cigarettes because they reasonably assume that the young person is 18 years or older because they showed them a fake ID or lied about their age, they are not likely to be penalised.
Can anyone confiscate my cigarettes?
Police and people who are performing the duties of a teacher at a school that you attend can confiscate your cigarettes if you are under 18. The cigarettes must be destroyed and they don’t have to pay you any compensation for them.
Is it illegal to smoke in some places?
Yes. It is against the law to smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces, and shared areas. Enclosed public places are places that are open to the public, have a roof, and are mostly surrounded by walls. This includes places you have to pay to enter (like a theatre).
It’s also against the law to smoke in certain public transport areas such as bus stops, tram stops, railways stations, taxi ranks, airports, or public areas that are used by passengers using public transport and that are wholly or partly covered by a roof.
It’s illegal to smoke in a motor vehicle (such as a car, or a truck) if there is someone younger than 16 years old in that motor vehicle. You can be fined for doing this.
There are also laws about smoking near public playgrounds. It’s against the law for someone to smoke within 10 metres of a public playground (this doesn’t apply to someone smoking in a car).
If you’re caught smoking in a place that is meant to be smoke-free, you may be:
- Given an informal caution, or
- Given an expiation fee on the spot, or
- Have to go to court and pay a fine.
Can I get in trouble for smoking while I’m wearing a school uniform?
Some schools have rules about how you can behave when wearing a school uniform. If your school has these kind of rules, you may get in trouble for smoking in school uniform. You can ask your school for information about its uniform and smoking policies.
If you’re under 18 years old, your teacher can confiscate cigarettes from you, even if you are not on school grounds.
The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.