Council cracks down on underage sales

Rochdale Borough Council caught six business selling tobacco products to under 18s during a crackdown on underage sales.

A two-day test purchasing exercise was undertaken by the council’s public protection service with the help of two volunteers, aged 16 and 17, who attempted to buy age-restricted cigarettes and other tobacco products from 13 shops across the borough.

During the exercise the volunteers were sold four packets of cigarettes and two tobacco ‘blunts’ (a tobacco tube that comes in different flavours, to which you can add further tobacco) from six different premises in Rochdale, Middleton and Heywood.

Officer will now investigate the premises to decide whether to formally caution the stores, bring criminal prosecutions or impose a ban on selling tobacco products for up to 12 months.

It is a criminal offence, under The Children and Young Person Act 1933, to sell tobacco products to someone under 18. Rochdale Borough Council’s public protection service and its Responsible Retailers Scheme encourage traders to operate Challenge 25, which means that they are expected to ask for photographic identification from anyone who appears to be under that age or if they are unsure of their age. Sales should only be made once ID has been produced that proves a customer is over 18.

Councillor Janet Emsley, Rochdale Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Health and Wellbeing, said: “Rochdale Borough Council takes any breach of the law regarding underage sales very seriously. We hope this sends the message out to retailers that selling age-restricted products to children will not be tolerated and encourage them to trade responsibly using the Challenge 25 policy.”

Seven of the premises tested in this exercise did request photographic identification from the volunteers and refused the sale when it was not produced.

Businesses were targeted after complaints alleging underage sales, as well as others where underage sales had previously been recorded. Some were chosen at random.

The exercise was also an opportunity to advise premises to remove the tobacco products they had on display to the public; from 6 April 2015 smaller premises were required to cover up tobacco products, except to people over the age of 18 in limited circumstances allowed by the law.

To report any suspected underage sales contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk