Increase in illegal cigarette sales

An increased number of retailers have sold cigarettes to children during enforcement activity by Aberdeenshire Council Trading Standards officers.

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

It also requires the registration of tobacco retailers and recently introduced a ban on tobacco displays in larger retail premises and sales from vending machines.

Scottish Trading Standards services are working with the Scottish Government to increase enforcement activity to help reduce availability to young people.

In the year up to March 2013, officers in Aberdeenshire conducted 39 test purchase visits using 16-year-old
volunteers.

A total of 13 sales were made, 30% of the test purchases, resulting in warning letters being issued to retailers and their staff.

In the case of one repeat sale, a Fixed Penalty Notice was issued to the retailer. This was unpaid and a report submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

The previous year, 27 test purchases were carried out, resulting in six sales.

Trading Standards Manager, Wilma Urquhart, said: “These figures show an upward trend in retailers either willing to sell, or inadvertently selling, cigarettes to under-18s.

“We have to work to reverse this trend, enforcing national legislation locally so that we support efforts to prevent young people from taking up smoking.

“We also plan to appoint a dedicated officer to allow for even more proactive work on tobacco control, in addition to further test-purchasing exercises throughout the
area.”

Trading Standards staff carried out 134 visits to tobacco retailers this year to inspect premises and provide help and advice on complying with legislation.

Advice was issued to 24 found not to be displaying statutory notices regarding underage sales.

Following a campaign launched in March 2012 in conjunction with Aberdeen City and Moray councils to highlight the issue of illegal tobacco sales, five reports were received during the year providing information about alleged sales of counterfeit cigarettes.

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee will be asked next today (Thursday, October 10) to agree a continued programme of enforcement and advice, including further test-purchasing by 16-year-olds.

This would include inspections of premises where tobacco is sold and surveillance of premises where complaints or other intelligence indicates tobacco products may be being illegally sold.

The agenda for the meeting can be found online at Aberdenshire Council’s website:
www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk.