Fag sellers get underage warning

Officers from Hampshire County Council Trading Standards  say they are disappointed that an operation to clamp down on underage sales from cigarette vending machines has revealed a 75% failure rate.

In a sting operation last week  a 15 year old volunteer visited four premises in Eastleigh, West End and Fair Oak, which resulted in three out of four positive cigarette sales at sites in Eastleigh and Fair Oak.

Since October 2007 it has been illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. The maximum penalty is a £2,500 fine to the seller and the company.

Warnings will now be issued to the sites. Following the spot checks, two premises have asked for their machines to be removed by the vending company and another has agreed not to switch on their machine until 7pm.

After an amendment to the Health Act, cigarette vending machines are due to be banned from 1 October 2011, but there is likely to be a legal challenge from the tobacco companies.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Ken Thornber said:

“Trading Standards provides training, advice and guidance to retailers on how to avoid making under-age sales, but cigarette machines can present a different challenge. Until these machines are outlawed, staff working anywhere with a machine, must stay alert to possible underage sales and monitor who accesses them to ensure that the law isn’t broken.“

If anyone suspects that cigarettes, or any other age restricted products are being sold to someone underage, they should contact Hampshire Trading Standards either by texting ‘60003’ and starting their text with the words ‘HANTS UNDERAGE’, calling (01962) 833620 or emailing underage.sales@hants.gov.uk.