Shops visited in youth tobacco sales crackdown

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Undercover test purchasers have swooped on shops in Leyland as part of a £400,000 scheme to tackle tobacco sales to young people.

Almost 7,000 businesses across Lancashire have been targeted.

Undercover sales firm Serve Legal carried out test purchases to young people at retail premises across the North West over the last nine weeks.

They included including 26 in Chorley and eight in Leyland.

Serve Legal, an independent test purchase service for retailers of age restricted products, carried out the series of tests but used people over the age of 18.

Tobacco firm Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which invested the money into the scheme, says it wants to “support” retailers in complying with the law on under-age sales.

It will not reveal how many shops failed the exercise until the end of the pilot scheme but says its aim is to develop training to ensure shops challenge for ID.

In a recent survey of 500 independent retailers, conducted by JTI, nearly a third admitted they did not have any formal training for their staff to prevent under age sales.

Paul Williams, JTI’s Head of Corporate Affairs, said: “The good news is the percentage of underage smokers is falling.

“However the North West has historically been a region with one of the highest levels of underage smoking.

“JTI’s position is clear, children should not smoke, and JTI is committed to playing a role in ensuring children do not have access to tobacco products. We are pleased to be able to support retailers.

“While this campaign is focused on the retail trade it is important to recognise nearly half of children claimed to have access to cigarettes through peer groups or family and 15% through other sources, including illegal traders.”

Serve Legal is the market leading provider of test purchase services.

The company carried out around 5,000 visits per month across the UK for both major blue-chip multiples and single site independents.

It has a database of 1,500 mystery visitors.