Small independent shops and newsagents are most at risk of prosecution for selling tobacco products to under-age teenagers, according to a new survey.
Data from Serve Legal, which carried out age-verification tests at 4,600 stores selling tobacco in 2015, shows 64% of total stores passed the test purchases, down by 6% on 2010 figures.
Supermarkets were the most diligent, with a pass rate of 77%, but only 53% of small stores passed the 2,000-plus ID check tests carried out by Serve Legal.
“Our data suggests tobacco isn’t being viewed as posing the same level of risk to children as alcohol, yet the law treats the two as equally harmful substances,” said Serve Legal director Ed Heaver.
He said no teenagers under 18 should be able to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products and retailers faced “stiff penalties” if they broke the law.
No ID was requested in 17% of tobacco test purchases and in 9% of cases the tobacco product had already been retrieved from the gantry before ID was requested.
Said Heaver: “While the tobacco display ban has removed products from sight, it seems to have failed to result in a clear understanding of the correct time to request ID during the purchase process.”
Total shops in Wales had the highest pass rate (80%), followed by Scotland (76%). There was a marked ‘north-south divide’ in England, with just 51% of stores in the North passing the test purchases, compared with 75% in the South.
Retailers appear more vigilant when it comes to alcohol sales, with 83% of all outlets achieving a successful test purchase from Serve Legal.
Source: Independent Retail News