Officers from the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD) Trading Standards carried out a series of underage sales compliance checks in 2022 as part of the service’s continuing work to safeguard young people from potentially harmful products including knives, alcohol, tobacco and vapes.
Nazir Ali, Trading Standards Team Manager at LBBD, explained: “A knife in the wrong hands could end up having severe consequences, and if we can prevent people having access to tobacco at an early age, the risk of them becoming addicted is minimised.
“Vapes have flooded the market and are a priority for the borough and across London.”
As part of its ‘Summer of Action’, the LBBD team conducted 83 visits with underage test purchasers and a total of 10 businesses failed the checks.
“All of the test purchasers were young volunteers,” said Ali. “My priority is to forge partnerships wherever we can; because of a lack of resources we have to work with different services. For this, we linked up with the Barking & Dagenham Youth Service, who supplied young people in the 14 to 16 age group.
“We generally operate a zero-tolerance policy across all age-restricted sales. However, every incident is assessed on a case-by-case basis. We have seen failures across independents and small retailers, but it can happen with supermarkets as well. Even when they have all the due diligence in place, they still occasionally do fall foul of the law.
“There are prosecutions lined up for some of these premises,” Ali added.
In addition to being a legal obligation, tackling non-compliant sales of age-restricted products can be a powerful way of demonstrating the value that Trading Standards brings to local communities, Ali believes.
“Whenever we publicise this sort of work, we always get very good positive feedback from parents. They see it as a fundamental duty for local authorities to support the safety and wellbeing of children. That’s why we need to divert or prioritise resources in Trading Standards to control age-restricted products.”