Last month I wrote about the sale of tobacco
to those underage and how this is still an area of concern to Cornwall Council Trading Standards. Out of that blog, one of the trading standard staff invited me to their office to show me what work they carry out.
Considering Licensing is one of the major roles I carry out at Cornwall Council it was certainly worth the visit as it really gave me a real insight to the work they undertake and in turn, many of the problems they face when trying to tackle underage sales of tobacco and alcohol.
For instance, during the period of 2010-2011 a total of 128 premises where visited with 187 test purchases of alcohol were attempted. Out of those visits 33 sales were made from 25 premises. This is a 19.5% failure rate, or those of a positive mind, an 80.5% pass rate. It was interesting to note that no night club failed because of the positive way door staff vet people before they enter.
I was also shown large quantities of alcohol and tobacco that were brought during the various test purchase operations. Some of the items have to be kept for a while due to court cases, but others are just stored because apart from pouring it down liquid down the drain there is no real way of disposing it.
It is not all about ‘test purchases’ as the real work goes into educating the owners of the various establishments and in turn highlighting the serious financial penalty and criminal conviction is they sell, and continue to sell to those under the legal age. The trading standards team also travel to schools in a project call Operation Blitz. This is aimed at making sure teenagers are aware of the risks around alcohol and smoking.
The officers asked if I knew of any responsible teenagers of the ages 14-16 if they would like to be part of a test purchase team, as the officers say they really struggle finding volunteers. If any reader knows of anyone, then contact me, or trading standards who will give you more details.
I really got a lot out of the visit and would like to say thank you to the two officers who took the time to answer my questions.
The selling of tobacco to those underage is hardly earth-shattering news. For as long as there has been a legal age restriction, tobacco has been sold to those below it. Will this ever change? If I were honest, then I would have to say no. However, I do believe that every effort should be made to discourage youngsters from taking up the habit of smoking in the first place. This means making sure the avenue of buying from shops is curtailed as much as is possible.
A latest survey by Trading Standards Officers in Cornwall has highlighted that the sale of tobacco by shops to those underage is continuing. Out of 33 premises visited, 60% sold tobacco to the young volunteers who are generally 15 and 16 years old. In total 13 of the 25 shops visited sold to the children without challenging the item. The children also purchased tobacco from vending machines in 7 of the 8 pubs visited without being challenged. I think the later point is a lot harder to police because in a lot of pubs vending machines are out of the way, but is this an excuse?
The figures have disappointed Trading Standards and if these percentages of shop sales were replicated across Cornwall it would seem that this is a much larger issue. No doubt these shops which have failed to uphold the law will be sweating a little, because the possible fines for this breach are considerable.
At the end of the day as long as tobacco is sold, those who are underage will still be able to access it by means of an older friend, sibling or parent. I guess the question should be what else should we do? Answers on a postcard please.