13th November 2023

Warning to shops that broke law

North Lanarkshire Trading Standards is applying for banning orders for two shops that flouted age-restricted sales laws.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
We want to make it clear that we will not tolerate retailers breaking the law and selling tobacco or nicotine vape products to anyone under the age of 18

North Lanarkshire Council Trading Standards has been clamping down on underage sales in its local community, with a recent series of test purchases revealing a failure rate of 24%.

Officers assisted by young volunteers carried out 42 test purchases of age-restricted products, resulting in three sales of cigarettes and seven sales of vaping products to people under the legal age of 18.

Two of the shops inspected sold vapes without checking the customer’s age for the third time. The owners and members of staff who made the sales were each given a £600 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) and North Lanarkshire Trading Standards will apply for a banning order which could prevent them from selling tobacco and nicotine vapour products completely.

Another shop which illegally sold age-restricted products on two occasions received an FPN of £400, and retailers who did not follow the law on underage sales for the first time received FPNs of £200. All the shops will be retested by North Lanarkshire Trading Standards in the future.

Michelle McKenna, Trading Standards Manager at North Lanarkshire Council, said: “We carry out regular test purchase exercises to make sure retailers are following the rules, and these latest purchase attempts were targeted at shops we have received complaints about from the public.

“We want to make it clear that we will not tolerate retailers breaking the law and selling tobacco or nicotine vape products to anyone under the age of 18. Shop owners and staff have a responsibility to ask for proof of a customer’s age before making a sale, challenging anyone who looks under 25 years old.

“If anyone has concerns about shops selling these products to underage customers, they can report it to trading standards to investigate.”

Shirley Mawhinney, Senior Health Improvement Manager for Tobacco at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “Nicotine vapour products are designed to help adults give up smoking, but they are being targeted at young people with bright coloured packaging and low prices.

“We are only beginning to understand the health risks to under 18s but there is evidence of adverse reactions to vapes among children and the strong advice is not to use them.”

Since January 2023, Officers from North Lanarkshire Trading Standards have issued underage sales advice on nicotine vapour products on 194 occasions and on tobacco products on 177 occasions. They will continue to undertake unannounced checks on retailers to identify anyone breaking the law on underage sales.

No place for illegal cigarettes
In a separate operation earlier this month as part of Operation CeCe, North Lanarkshire Trading Standards seized 5,470 illegal cigarettes and a quantity of tobacco from premises in Motherwell.

The cigarettes were concealed and would have been difficult to find without the help of Boo, a specially trained tobacco detection dog.

Michelle McKenna with tobacco inspection dog Boo and a sample of the illicit products seized (image credit: North Lanarkshire Council

The seized products were a mix of counterfeit and illicit (non-duty paid).

“As result of this operation, we have taken a significant amount of illegal cigarettes and tobacco off the market to protect public health and legitimate businesses,” McKenna commented.

“We will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to criminal activity like this and take enforcement action against those responsible.”

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