Trading Standards Renew Warning to Shopkeepers following Convictions

Trading Standards officers have warned shopkeepers that they intend to maintain their test purchasing programmes to weed out those who sell cigarettes to children under 16.

This follows the conviction of two Inverness retail premises, which pled guilty at Inverness District Court on Monday to being involved in the sale of cigarettes to an under-age child.

The child was a 14-year-old volunteer, who at the time was under the supervision of The Highland Council’s Trading Standards Officers taking part in a programme of cigarette test purchasing.

Officers visited a number of shop premises throughout the city in October last year and were dismayed to find that the volunteer, who was chosen as being of an appearance consistent with his age, was sold cigarettes at two retail premises without being challenged in any way. 

The Council’s Head of Trading Standards, Nigel Mackenzie, said:  “Our covert test purchasing showed the vast majority of local traders are responsible when it comes to underage sales and that is very encouraging. However, it is very disappointing to discover that some traders will still sell tobacco to children.  My officers will continue to carry out test purchasing programmes of age restricted products and anyone who sells to our volunteers will be reported to the procurator fiscal.”

Mr MacKenzie highlighted that the owner or manager of a business, as well as an employee who sells an age restricted product, may be liable to prosecution for an illegal sale. Officers regularly visited retailers and were provided with information and advice to allow them to put in place the best systems to avoid underage sales, such as staff training.

Mr MacKenzie added: “Test purchasing is our way or checking that such systems are being implemented and used correctly. We will continue to help traders who wish to obey the law, and we will root out those who break it.”

Following the lifting of previous restrictions by the Lord Advocate, Trading Standards Officers can now use child volunteers to carry out the test purchasing of age restricted goods.  Officers must follow a strict protocol which requires the volunteers, who must be at least 18 months younger than the age restricted product in question, to always tell the truth to traders and never persuade or coerce them into making a sale.

Any trader who would like advice on the prevention of the sale of age restricted products such as cigarettes, fireworks, or solvents should contact Trading Standards for more information on 0845 600 4222 (local rate). Concerns regarding the sale of alcohol can be discussed with the Police.  Members of the public who suspect a retailer of selling age restricted products to children can report their concerns anonymously to Crimestoppers by telephoning 0800 555 111.

28 Mar 2007