Aberdeenshire Council are warning that 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.
It also requires the registration of tobacco retailers and includes a ban on tobacco displays in all premises selling related products.
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 2016, officers in Aberdeenshire conducted 12 test purchase visits throughout the area using 16-year-old volunteers.
A total of 4 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 5 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.
Vice chair Graeme Clark added
We have to work together as a community, enforcing national legislation locally so that we support efforts to prevent young people from taking up smoking. This is an important issue.
Selling cigarettes to young people purely to make a profit at the expense of their health cannot be condoned and I’m glad the vast majority of local retailers are taking that message onboard.
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.
Advice was issued to ten found not to be displaying statutory notices regarding underage sales. This is a 5% increase on the previous year.
Following a campaign launched in March 2012 in conjunction with Aberdeen City and Moray councils to highlight the issue of illegal tobacco sales, 19 reports were received during the year providing information about alleged sales of counterfeit cigarettes.
Several of these were in relation to the same premises and further action is being pursued against the business.
In addition, monitoring of social media sites identified 15 potentially illegal tobacco traders in and around Aberdeenshire – appropriate action is being pursued.
At a recent meeting, members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee agreed a continued programme of enforcement and advice for the coming year, including further test-purchasing by 16-year-olds.
Activity will also 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, including the use of social media sites.
This year the trading standards team will also try to raise awareness of the legislation as it applies to purchases of tobacco products by and for under-18s at and around schools and further education institutions.