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    Demand to double fines as test purchase finds one in seven stores selling vapes to under-18s

    Photo: iStock

    By Donal McMahon, Local Democracy Reporter

    Shops who sell vapes to under-age children could see fixed penalty fines doubled to £500 in Lisburn and Casltereagh following a test purchasing exercise in the district.

    The local authority’s environment committee heard this week, that five premises out of 36 surveyed were caught selling nicotine-inhaling products to a 15-year-old volunteer in late 2023. The current legal age for purchase is 18.

    The illegal sales were highlighted further in chambers, as the shop owners received “pre-visit correspondence” from the council ahead of the survey making them aware a spot check was due to be carried out.

    James Baird, Downshire East UUP Alderman, said: “Is the current £250, is that a severe enough penalty for selling E-cigarettes to under-age children, is it enough?

    “Personally, I think it should be moved up to £500.

    “We should be looking at upping the penalty.

    “It would be timely to do so now as budget setting is ahead.

    “If we are restricted by legislation on the level of the fixed penalty, then at this time we would have no further decision or influence on raising the penalty.

    “However, I believe £250 is not enough of a deterrent to shop owners.

    “I would therefore propose we write to the government department to suggest a higher penalty in this matter.”

    Lisburn North SDLP rep, Pat Catney added: “We have had similar legislation when it comes to under-age drinking.

    “It is important that we protect children and have a zero tolerance policy to send out a strong message.”

    The council’s environment director replied: “As part of fixing next year’s rates we can look at amending penalties up and down, if they are not fixed in legislation.

    “If in legislation, we will write to the department and express councillors’ view that this fixed penalty fine should be raised.”

    (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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