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Children sold age-restricted products in Staffordshire

Retailers in Staffordshire are being warned that they face further test purchases and strict enforcement action, in a bid to clamp down on the illegal sales of age-restricted products to children.


The warning from Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards service follows latest figures from the Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA).   


The figures, from April 2023 to March 2024, show out of 742 premises visited by Trading Standards across the region, 24% of businesses sold an age-restricted product, including alcohol, tobacco, vapes and fireworks to underage shoppers. The volunteers used were both male and female, between 14 and 17 years old and were acting under the instruction of officers from Trading Standards.


In Staffordshire, 76 test purchases for vapes were attempted, with seven shops found to be selling products to underage volunteers.


Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council, said: “We work closely with businesses across the county to make sure they are aware of their responsibilities around restricted age sales.


“Thankfully, as we found in our test purchases, the majority of retailers do sell responsibly, however where this isn’t the case or rules are broken, our officers will take the appropriate action.  Strict rules on the sales of certain products are in place to protect and safeguard children, so it’s vital that these are adhered too.”


An additional operation by CEnTSA focusing on Botox and other cosmetic filler treatments, found that young volunteers were able to book appointments at 16 of the 18 premises visited/contacted; this is a shocking 88% non-compliance rate. 


The majority of offending businesses have been issued with a written warning for first-time offences, while others are facing criminal prosecution and/or a premises licence review, where their alcohol licence could be suspended for up to three months or even revoked. 


Frances Darling, CEnTSA’s Management Board Champion for age restricted sales said: "Fundamentally, Trading Standards wants to work with businesses to ensure they comply with the law and act responsibly; however where necessary, we will not hesitate to take robust enforcement action, especially where previous advice is ignored.


“The law relating to sales of alcohol, tobacco, nicotine vaping products, fireworks and other age-restricted products and services exist to protect children and young people from harm and for this reason Trading Standards takes its role in preventing sales of age-restricted products very seriously.


“We regularly carry out test purchasing exercises to ensure businesses are complying with the law and will take enforcement action to prevent unacceptable and illegal sales across the retail sector.” 


People can report businesses selling age restricted goods to under 18s on the Staffordshire Trading Standards confidential hotline on 01785330356.


Businesses can also get advice from the Business Companion website or by completing the online contact form at Trading Standards Business Advice - Staffordshire County Council.


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