​​​​​​​Mixed results in firework, cigarette and vape test purchasing by Trading Standards

Highland Council’s Trading Standards team is reporting mixed findings from its Autumn age restricted product test purchase programme.  During the exercise, premises in Easter Ross, Inverness and Aviemore were test purchased for fireworks, cigarettes and vape liquids.   

The findings were:

  • All 15 shops test purchased for fireworks correctly refused to sell to the young test purchase volunteer.
  • 13 premises were test purchased for cigarettes and one failed, selling cigarettes to the young volunteer.
  • Vape liquids were test purchased at 10 premises and 2 businesses sold the liquids to the young volunteer.

The businesses who were found to break the law were all issued with Fixed Penalty Notices for £200.

David MacKenzie, Trading Standards Manager said: “While it is positive that no fireworks were sold to our underage volunteers, it is disappointing that three retail premises sold cigarettes and vapes to our young volunteers.  Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued to the businesses involved and trading standards officers are also working with the businesses concerned to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. We are pleased that the majority of the local shops that we checked did the right thing and refused to sell. Businesses should ensure that both they and their staff are aware of the law when selling age restricted products.”

Since 1 April 2017, it has been legal requirement for all businesses selling tobacco, cigarette papers or vapes to have an Age Verification Policy in place.  It is an offence to sell these products without such a policy.

An Age Verification Policy is the agreed steps that have been put in place by a retailer to ensure that any customer requesting these products who appears to be under 25 is asked for proof of age. Retailers should keep a record of the Age Verification Policy they have agreed and should make sure that all staff are familiar with this.

David MacKenzie added: “We would advise all businesses that they can seek further advice from our Service to ensure they prevent sales to underage persons from occurring wherever possible.”

Trading Standards regularly carry out test purchase exercises and the process is very strictly controlled to protect the welfare of young volunteers and at the same time be fair to the businesses involved.  Any retailer that sells an age restricted product to an underage volunteer may receive a warning or a fine. Furthermore, in the case of cigarettes, if they repeat the offence, they can be banned from selling tobacco.

Further information on test purchasing can be found at:


12 Nov 2019