wagtail dog
Wagtail dog with seized tobacco

Test purchases conducted by London Trading Standards (LTS) have shown that shops in London are still selling knives and alcohol to children as young as 13. Tobacco was also high on the list of age-restricted products sold to children, with tobacco being sold to 14-year olds.

LTS, in association with the Metropolitan Police, has carried out 700 spot checks till date this year using child volunteers between the ages of 12 and 17.

Over the past 18 months, 26 local authorities conducted 2,593 test purchases for knives, alcohol and tobacco using child volunteers between the ages of 12 and 17. Although a majority of shops refused to sell to underage customers, test purchases resulted in a total of 285 sales, with 14% of shops selling knives and 12% selling alcohol.

Knifes sold to 14, 15 & 16 year olds in Barking & Dagenham
Knifes sold to 14, 15 & 16 year olds in Barking & Dagenham

“We are disappointed that children so young have been allowed to buy knives in London shops but we note the relatively high levels of compliance among the majority of retailers. We would encourage retailers to continue to sign up to Responsible Retailer Schemes and work with us to help prevent children from being allowed to buy age restricted goods,” said Trish Burls, lead officer for knife crime at LTS.

Brent, Croydon and Tower Hamlets councils recently conducted large-scale seizures of illegal tobacco and related products such products. Trading standards noted that traders who deal in illegal cigarettes are more likely to sell to underage customers, as cheap ‘fakes’ make tobacco more accessible to young people.

LTS will also be partnering with detection dog specialists, Wagtail, to provide tobacco education via local authorities and demonstrate how dogs are used to detect illegal tobacco.

Collin Singer, Managing Director at Wagtail UK Ltd said: “Our Wagtail Tobacco Control Education Unit is an ideal platform for our Trading Standards partners to portray the message about the dangers of illegal tobacco and other consumer protection issues. It helps to demonstrate the capabilities of our detection dogs and their ability to detect illegal tobacco, often in cleverly constructed concealments. Our unit is also an excellent forum for intelligence gathering and engagement with the local community.”