Crackdown on alcohol and tobacco sales to minors

Published 28th June 2018

Sandwell's trading standards team is continuing its on-going crackdown on local shops which sell alcohol and tobacco products to minors, that is people under the age of 18.

The latest test purchase figures for April 2017 - March 2018 showed that out of 49 shops visited, 20 shops (41 per cent) sold alcohol to an under-age volunteer. 

The 20 non-compliant shops were subsequently warned, with only two shops re-offending when a follow up visit was made.

A further 33 test purchases were made for cigarettes with only two shops selling to the under-age volunteer.

The two offending shops were revisited with both refusing to sell cigarettes.

Twenty-three test purchases were carried out for nicotine-inhaling products or e-cigarettes with 15 shops (65 per cent) selling products to minors.

The 15 non-compliant shops were warned, with only two shops offending when revisited.

New legislation making it illegal to sell nicotine-inhaling products - including e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine to under 18s - came into force on 1 October 2015 - to protect children, following a surge in the number of people using e-cigarettes.

Retailers caught flouting the law could face a fine of up to £2,500 as well as a criminal record.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection, said: "Clearly this is an unacceptable result. It's important that retailers have procedures in place to make sure they do not break the law.

"Research suggests that e-cigarettes could act  a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes and the long-term health effects of using electronic cigarettes are still unknown.

"It's our job to protect children by making sure that businesses are aware of the changes in law and understand their responsibility to make sure such products are not sold to minors."

"Bob Charnley, trading standards and licensing manager, said: "I'm delighted that the majority of retailers refused to sell to young volunteers who were attempting to buy age-restricted products.

"However, I am disappointed to see that a minority of retailers still sold age-restricted products to young people.

"The issue of underage sales in Sandwell is a high priority for us and our partners, as illegal sales of alcohol and tobacco to youngsters are not acceptable.

"We work hard with the trade, through our Responsible Business Scheme, to make sure that retailers understand their legal and social responsibilities and are aware of the consequences if they do sell.

"The consequences for selling age-restricted products to children can be severe, with the seller and shop owner facing prosecution. The licence holder also faces the prospect of having their licence reviewed and possibly revoked."

Anyone wanting advice on the laws about selling age-restricted goods can contact Trading Standards on 0121 569 6580.