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    Two North Lanarkshire shops could be banned from selling tobacco, nicotine vapour products

    Image from North Lanarkshire Council

    Two shops in North Lanarkshire could be banned from selling tobacco and nicotine vapour products after illegally selling to under 18s on three separate occasions.

    Trading Standards Officers recently carried out 42 age restricted product test purchase attempts in local shops; there were three sales of cigarettes and seven of vaping products, a failure rate of 24 per cent.

    This included two shops which sold vapes without checking the customer’s age for the third time. The owners and members of staff who made the sales were each given a £600 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) and Trading Standards will apply for a banning order.

    Another shop which has sold age restricted products to under 18s on two occasions received FPNs of £400, and retailers who did not follow the law on underage sales for the first time received FPNs of £200. All the shops will be retested by Trading Standards.

    “We carry out regular test purchase exercises to make sure retailers are following the rules, and these latest purchase attempts were targeted at shops we have received complaints about from the public,” said Michelle McKenna, Trading Standards Manager.

    “We want to make it clear that we will not tolerate retailers breaking the law and selling tobacco or nicotine vape products to anyone under the age of 18. Shop owners and staff have a responsibility to ask for proof of a customer’s age before making a sale, challenging anyone who looks under 25 years old.

    “If anyone has concerns about shops selling these products to underage customers, they can report it to trading standards to investigate.”

    Any member of the public who suspects a trader is selling tobacco, nicotine vapour products, solvents or other age restricted products to under 18s, can contact Trading Standards at [email protected] to provide information in confidence.

    “Nicotine vapour products are designed to help adults give up smoking, but they are being targeted at young people with bright coloured packaging and low prices,” said Shirley Mawhinney, Senior Health Improvement Manager for Tobacco at NHS Lanarkshire.

    “We are only beginning to understand the health risks to under 18s but there is evidence of adverse reactions to vapes among children and the strong advice is not to use them.”

    Trading Standards Officers work with businesses to ensure they are aware of the law and their legal obligations on sales of tobacco and vaping products. Since January 2023, officers have issued underage sales advice on nicotine vapour products on 194 occasions and on tobacco products on 177 occasions. Officers will continue to undertake unannounced checks on retailers to identify anyone breaking the law on underage sales.

    In a successful operation by Trading Standards Officers earlier this month, 5,470 illegal cigarettes and a quantity of tobacco were seized from premises in Motherwell.

    The cigarettes were concealed and would have been difficult to find without the help of Boo, a dedicated tobacco detection dog.

    The seized products were a mix of counterfeit and illicit (non-duty paid). Counterfeit tobacco has been found to contain more tar and carbon monoxide than legal products and, in some cases, glass and rat droppings. Some illegally manufactured cigarettes do not self-extinguish, as legal cigarettes do, which could lead to accidental fires.

    “As result of this operation, we have taken a significant amount of illegal cigarettes and tobacco off the market to protect public health and legitimate businesses,” Michelle McKenna explained.

    “We will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to criminal activity like this and take enforcement action against those responsible.”

    As well as the safety concerns, the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco causes huge financial losses to legitimate business. It also undermines public health initiatives to reduce smoking by making cheap cigarettes available in an unregulated environment.

    Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, Dr Pete Cheema OBE, said, “It is absolutely right that reducing the illicit sale of tobacco and vaping products should be a primary objective for Trading Standards officers.

    “Illicit products are not only potentially harmful for the customers who buy them, the trade of illicit goods damages local businesses who are doing the right thing and complying to the rules.

    “The knock-on effect is to fuel organised crime and encourage more people to break the law, harming local communities, undermining the viability of local stores and the important services they provide, and impacting on the Scottish Economy as a whole. That is why SGF has called for the Scottish Government to provide extra resource to help stop the illicit wholesale and retail of these products.”

    The operation was run in partnership with HMRC, as part of Operation CeCe Scotland to tackle illegal tobacco and cigarette sales at retail level.

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