Highland Welcomes Tougher Laws on Tobacco Sales

Legislation introduced today (Monday) which prevents retailers from selling tobacco products  to anyone under 18 years of age is being strongly supported in the Highlands, with The Highland Council promising to “police” the new legislation and institute prosecution where appropriate and NHS Highland reinforcing the benefits a healthy lifestyle free of cigarettes.

More than 1,500 retailers in Highland have been advised of the new legislation, which includes a requirement to clearly display a statutory notice (A3 size)  stateing:  “ It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18”. Failure to display this sign is an offence.

Powers to enforce legislation is the responsibility of Trading Standards Officers of The Highland Council. The maximum penalty to sell tobacco to a person under 18 is £2,500.  Officers regularly visit retailers to provide assistance/advice on best practice to avoid underage sales, such as staff training.

Alistair Thomson, Head of Environmental Health and Trading Standards, said: “We welcome this new legislation and initially will be providing advice and guidance to retailers to ensure they know their responsibilities.  We will be vigilant and will take action when appropriate.”

Trading Standards Officers carry out covert test purchasing of age restricted products and 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.  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.

Earlier this year, there were four convictions in the Highlands following the sale of cigarettes in retail premises to a 14 year old volunteer, under supervision of Trading Standards Officers. The total fines were £500.

Retailers who would like advice on the prevention of the sale of age restricted products such as tobacco may contact Trading Standards for more information on 0845 600 4222 (local rate).  Members of the public who suspect a retailer of selling age restricted products to children can report their concerns to Trading Standards or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.                                

NHS Highland also welcomed the new legislation.

Garry Coutts, Chairman, NHS Highland said:  “Smoking has a devastating effect on young peoples lives and their futures. We know that many adults, hooked on smoking, deeply regret having started as teenagers. We certainly welcome this change in legislation as a further action to reduce smoking and minimise tobacco-related harm. Smoking still remains to be one of the biggest single causes of preventable disease and premature death.”

Councillor Bill Fernie, Chairman of the Council’s Education Culture and Sport Committee added:  “We are delighted to see that fewer young people in Highland are smoking and will persist with our education initiatives to ensure this downward trend continues. Any move to prevent young people from starting in the first place can assist us greatly in improving the lives of those in Highland and future generations.”

Evidence that fewer young people are smoking was provided via results of a  Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS). It showed that in Highland 5% of 13 year olds said that they were regular smokers compared with 12% of 15 year olds, a significant decrease from 2002 when it was reported that 9% of 13 year olds were regular smokers and 22% of 15 year olds.

It has also been reported that 83% of smokers regret having started smoking and would not smoke if they had their time again.

In Highland there is a great deal of support anyone to stop smoking in the form of a Highland Smoking Cessation Service, details can be found on the NHS website: www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/YourHealth/Pages/Smoking.aspx

The Scottish Government has launched the website / which contains information for retailers, training guide, FAQ’s, the statutory notice, etc, all of which can be downloaded from the website.  Also contains helpful information and guidance for young people. 

  -ends-

1 Oct 2007
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