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    Union calls on special protection of shopworkers enforcing new age-restricted Tobacco and Vapes Bill

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    Retail trade union Usdaw has called on the government to urgently bring forward substantial protections for the shopworkers who have to enforce age-restricted sales as Tobacco and Vapes Bill got a nod of approval in the House of Commons.

    The Tobacco and Vapes Bill means that anyone turning 15 from this year would be banned from buying cigarettes for the rest of their life and aims to make vapes less appealing to children. Usdaw’s annual survey of shopworkers shows that nearly half of shopworkers suffered violence, threats and abuse by enforcing the law and 43 per cent of those were triggered by age-verification.

    Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says, “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. They are on the frontline of enforcing the laws created by Parliament and they deserve to have the full protection of the law. Last week the Government promised to introduce a standalone offence for assaulting a shopworker, but we haven’t seen the detail of what they are proposing yet. It must at least as strong as the law we campaigned for and won in Scotland.

    “Usdaw supports the intention of the Tobacco and Vapes Bill and we recognise the health benefits that it can bring. However, the Government cannot ignore the very real dangers for shopworkers in verifying a customer’s age and enforcing the law. This will become increasing difficult in the decades to come, as tobacco products will be illegal to purchase by people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.

    “The dither and delay of this Government on accepting the need to legislate to protect retail staff has led to thousands of shopworkers needlessly suffering physical and mental injury. We hope that whatever the Government is proposing will be substantial and effective in giving shopworkers, key workers in every community, the respect that they have long deserved and regrettably too often do not receive.”

    These are some of the comments shopworkers shared when responding to Usdaw’s survey:

    • “Sworn at for refusing an energy drink sale due to the customer looking under 25 and having no ID.”
    • “Told to f*** off when asked for ID.”
    • “We get verbally abused nearly every day, especially asking customers for ID.”
    • “People upset about age challenges at the till and shoplifters being abusive.”
    • “Had to ask a young man for ID (Think25) he was very upset about it and called me a f***ing b*tch!”
    • “Asked customer for ID and they didn’t have it so they threatened me.”

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