A recent survey by Trading Standards Officers with The Highland Council has revealed pub vending machines could be seriously undermining efforts to prevent underage tobacco sales.
Officers found 38% of pubs and hotels visited had cigarette vending machines located in unsupervised areas such as corridors, vestibules and toilets, places so far from the bar that busy staff cannot properly supervise them, and could result in underage children easily obtaining cigarette without challenge.
Nigel Mackenzie, Head of Trading Standards, said: "It is against the law to sell cigarettes to children. Pub landlords and hoteliers have the same responsibility as other retailers when it comes to refusing sales. The onus is on them to place vending machines where staff can see them to make sure they are not being used by children.
"I applaud those landlords who are responsibly complying with the law, but we will be cracking down on those who don’t act to stop children buying cigarettes. Responsible landlords wouldn’t serve alcohol to children and they have the same responsibilities when it comes to selling cigarettes.
"We are currently providing guidance to all licensed premises in The Highland Council area on how they can try to prevent an illegal sale taking place from a cigarette vending machine.
"We will be carrying out a programme of test purchasing using child volunteers and any pub landlords and hoteliers who flout the law face being reported to the procurator fiscal."
The findings were discovered by officers as part of covert visits to Highland pubs and hotels looking at various issues including drinks price displays, overcharging and serving of measures. Officers also found almost 40% of licensed premises did not correctly display their prices.
Consumers with any concerns that a trader may be selling tobacco products to children can contact Highland Council's Trading Standards Unit by telephoning The Highland Council Consumer Helpline on 0845 600 4222 (local rate for BT calls, mobile call costs may vary) or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or confidentially by calling Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.
NOTES FOR EDITOR
Children and Young Person (Scotland) Act 1937
Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991
If a sale is made from a cigarette vending machine to a person under 16, the owner of a machine as well as the owners of the premises/licensee could be liable to prosecution and may lead to, on summary conviction, to a fine of up to £2,500.
The Courts can make an order regulating the use or ordering the removal of vending machines from premises where they are satisfied that a person under the age of 16 has used it.
Failure to display the statutory notice on a cigarette vending machine may lead to, on summary conviction, to a fine of up to £1,000.
The Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order 2003 The Prices Act 1974
Food and drink establishments are required to display the price of at least thirty prices, which must include at least five soft drinks.
The prices display must be unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible to the intending purchaser, without having to request the price.
A person who contravenes these requirements may, on conviction, receive a fine of up to £5,000.
For further information please contact Susan Aird, Trading Standards Officer, Tel 01463 228700