Increase in underage tobacco sales in Shire

Undercover enforcement visits to local shops will increase this year.

Undercover enforcement visits to local shops will increase this year.

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The number of undercover enforcement visits to local shops will increase this year, after a “disappointing” rise in non-compliance with tobacco sales laws.

In percentage terms, the number of retailers in the area who sold tobacco to children during enforcement activity by Trading Standards officers increased last year.

Local authorities have a duty to work under the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 to prevent the sale of tobacco to children.

This involves investigating complaints about alleged offences and taking measures to reduce the number of offences.

The law prohibits the sale of cigarettes to under-18s and buying cigarettes on their behalf.

In the year up to March 2016, officers in Aberdeenshire conducted 12 test purchase visits throughout the area using 16-year-old volunteers.

A total of four sales were made, 33% of the test purchases, resulting in warning letters being issued to retailers and their staff, with follow up visits to be made.

The previous year, 64 test purchases were carried out, resulting in five sales (7.8%).

ISC chair, David Aitchison, said: “These figures show a disappointing increase and so more visits will be carried out in the coming year to emphasise the importance of taking adequate steps to prevent tobacco sales to young people taking place.

“Good progress had been made in the previous two years, so we hope our planned enforcement activity will help to return to a more positive position.

“Ultimately the aim here is to reduce the number of young people who smoke and we need retailers to understand why that’s important and get behind it.”

Trading Standards staff carried out 71 visits to tobacco retailers over the last year to inspect premises and provide help and advice on complying with legislation.

Following a campaign launched in March 2012, 19 reports were received during the year providing information about alleged sales of counterfeit cigarettes.

In addition, monitoring of social media sites identified 15 potentially illegal tobacco traders in and around Aberdeenshire.

At a recent meeting, members of the Infrastructure Services Committee agreed a continued programme of enforcement and advice for the coming year, including further test-purchasing by 16-year-olds.