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Trading Standards Age Restricted Products Enforcement Programme

Summary

Trading Standards enforces legislation which prohibits the supply of most age restricted goods. The planned enforcement programme for underage sales in relation to tobacco sales and spray paints is required to be considered annually.

Trading Standards will continue its focus on the supply side of alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes by providing access to advice and education materials to Dorset businesses and combining that with a programme of test purchase exercises.

In relation to other age restricted products, Trading Standards will consider enforcement action where complaints or intelligence are received.

Trading Standards will maintain strong links with all partners including internally licensing and community safety and externally, Dorset Police, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and neighbouring authorities.

A summary of the action taken in relation to age restricted sales in 2018-19 together with the enforcement programme proposed for 2019-20 is included here together with a breakdown of activity by the old district/borough council areas and trends from recent years.

Activities related to illicit cigarettes and tobacco are also covered in the report as it is likely that anyone prepared to sell such products are not going to take much care about who they sell them to.

Introduction

Trading Standards enforces legislation which prohibits the supply of age restricted goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks, lottery tickets, intoxicating substances (solvents), spray paints, petrol, film recordings and computer games. 

For cigarettes and tobacco products, the Children and Young Persons (Sale of Tobacco etc.) Order 2007 and the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991 place a duty on the Council to consider at least once every twelve months, “the extent to which it is appropriate for them to carry out, in their area, a programme of enforcement action”.

In respect of spray paints the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 requires the Council to consider, at least once a year, “the extent to which it is appropriate …to have a programme of enforcement action” and how it intends to carry out such a programme.

Dorset Council, as the local weights and measures authority, is a “responsible authority” under The Licensing Act 2003. The effect is that Dorset Council can make representations for premises’ licence applications and apply for a review of a premises’ licence in respect of the four statutory licensing objectives namely:

  • the prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • the prevention of public nuisance
  • the protection of children from harm

Involvement is mainly in relation to under age sales of age restricted products linked to anti-social behaviour, although the sale of counterfeit products may also trigger an application.

Public Health England has produced health profiles [1] which include hospital stays for alcohol-specific conditions (under 18s) and tobacco use in the county. This identified the following:

  • Dorset has a similar rate for alcohol specific hospital stays for those under 18 as bench marked authorities including in each of the old district/ borough areas
  • figures for smoking prevalence in under 18’s are no longer available
  • smoking prevalence for adults is better than the national average although for routine and manual occupations they range from 16% in East Dorset to 29.6% in North Dorset

This age restricted products enforcement contributes to ensuring Dorset residents be safe and healthy by reducing the availability of various controlled goods at retail level.

Review of activity for 2018-19

Tobacco and alcohol

1. Provide advice to business

Trading Standards continues to ensure that businesses are kept up to date with developments in the law covering age restricted products. As the service has moved away from routine inspections this is achieved largely through the age restricted products newsletter that is sent to premises shortly before each test-purchase exercise. Nearly 300 premises across Dorset receive this letter. This year, as well as the usual due diligence message to businesses, it has covered how to avoid proxy sales, plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco, the new controls on e-cigarettes and e-liquids and how to avoid scams when running your own business.

2. Make the best use of intelligence about illegal and illicit tobacco

Trading Standards has continued to collate intelligence and use a variety of enforcement methods to attempt to reduce the availability of illegal tobacco.

Illegal/illicit tobacco is being sold in Dorset in a variety of places however most intelligence relates to people selling “privately” at their place of employment and via social media. Trading Standards is sensitive to the need to be proportionate and balances the need for enforcement action against the right of an individual to a private life.

A protocol has been set up to ensure people identified as selling from social media sites receive advice about their illegal activities “Cease and desist” letters have been sent and joint education visits have been undertaken with Dorset Police.

Public Health Dorset has contributed to the funding for two years of a regional officer to bring together expertise in dealing with illicit tobacco. As a result Trading Standards and Poole and Bournemouth Borough Councils carried out a media campaign at the end of March and early April 2018 publicising the issues around illegal tobacco and encouraging reports to Crimestoppers. A survey undertaken as part of the campaign showed that as many as 36% of smokers had bought cheap non-duty paid cigarettes and tobacco. This demonstrates the need to continue work to in this area while being mindful of the role HMRC have.

Trading Standards have also had meetings with HMRC which we are hopeful will build a closer working relationship in the future.

3. Use under age test purchasing to identify and deal with premises at risk of selling alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes to those under 18

The service has undertaken test purchase exercises across the six district/borough council areas and the results of those exercises can be seen at appendix A. Of note are the following:

a) This year we trialled using an apprentice who had just turned 18 as an initial intelligence gathering exercise. Businesses operate challenge policies usually “Challenge 25” or “Challenge 21” as part of their due diligence, so any sale to someone aged just 18 should at least be prefaced with a request for proof of age by the sales assistant. 14 premises were tested and 9 sold without asking for proof of age. All those that sold were written to with advice and then a follow up test purchase visit was carried out with a 15 year old volunteer. None of the premises sold.

b) The remaining exercises resulted in four sales which were followed up with warnings to the stores and in one instance the seller was served with a penalty notice by Dorset Police.

5. Continue to work closely with partners

Trading Standards continued its links with Dorset Police and the then district/ borough councils’ licensing officers and this enables us to deal with problem premises effectively. Partnership working has also been maintained through the regional trading standards group of 15 authorities (Trading Standards South West). This facilitates the sharing of best practice around the region and some co-ordinated work.

6. Continue to identify opportunities to carry out externally funded work

The service continued to take up opportunities where funding was available from appropriate organisations.

7. New legislation

Following some horrific attacks using acids, the government has a bill before parliament to:

  • make it an offence to sell products which contain certain corrosive substances to under 18s and
  • ban the online sale and delivery of knives without a physical age verification process taking place

The service ensures it keeps up to date with developments and is in a position to advise Dorset businesses. The government envisages that local authorities will enforce the act via section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972 which provides that the authority has power to prosecute or defend legal proceedings where it is “expedient for the promotion or protection of the interests of the inhabitants of their area”.

Programme of Enforcement for 2019-20

It is proposed that the overall strategy remains the same, with the provision of advice to business and the use of test purchasing to identify and deal with problem businesses or areas. Where problem businesses are identified, appropriate enforcement activity including warnings, fixed penalty notices, simple cautions, licence reviews and prosecution will be used in accordance with Trading Standards’ enforcement policy.

In 2012, Trading Standards requested and secured the agreement of elected members, that it could use the investigatory tactic that allows volunteers to give a false age when asked about their age during test purchase operations. This would only be used where there is intelligence that a specific business is selling age restricted products to children or the business is known to use tactics to identify test purchase operations. It would also only be used in relation to specific premises where it is authorised by the Service Manager for Trading Standards. Although Trading Standards has not had to use this tactic yet, Trading Standards will continue to be able to use it, should the need arise.

Tobacco and alcohol

1. Provide advice to business

Through the new Dorset Council website, written information, Trading Standards’ business advice line and by visiting businesses.

2. Make the best use of intelligence about illegal and illicit tobacco

Illegal and illicit tobacco continue to undermine the Department of Health’s strategy to reduce the prevalence of smoking by making available cheap tobacco. It is also highly unlikely that sellers of such products will take precaution to avoid selling their products to the young. Trading Standards will continue to collate intelligence and use a variety of enforcement methods to attempt to reduce the availability of illegal tobacco. This may include seeking the authorisation of the courts to undertake covert test purchases where products are available on-line or at private premises.

3. Use under age test purchasing to identify and deal with premises at risk of selling alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18 years

a) As the Council has now become a unitary authority Trading Standards proposes to undertake a minimum four exercises a year with two being focussed on alcohol, one on cigarettes and tobacco and one on e-cigarettes.

b) It will use intelligence and liaise with licensing and community safety colleagues and Dorset Police to decide on the areas the work shall be undertaken.

c) It will respond to requests from partners should they identify further need.

4. Continue to work closely with partners

Trading Standards will continue to work with partners including Dorset Police, licensing and community safety colleagues, Public Health Dorset and the regional partnership, Trading Standards South West. All partners continue to provide useful intelligence about the availability of alcohol and tobacco to young people and Dorset Police assist Trading Standards with alcohol test purchase operations.

5. Continue to identify opportunities to carry out externally funded work

The service will take up opportunities where funding is available from appropriate organisations, such as Public Health England, for work that fits in with the priorities identified in this report.

6. New legislation

Other products

Trading Standards has received no reports about activity related to solvent abuse, spray paints, fireworks, films, computer games or knives so it proposes to continue to deal with these issues when and if complaints or other intelligence are received.

Officers are mindful of the spate in knife crime but luckily this has not been seen in Dorset so far.

Appendix A:

Summary of Underage Sales Enforcement Activity from April 2014 to March 2019 by former district/borough council area.

Premises visited and educated/informed about age restricted sales

Premises visited and educated/informed about age restricted sales
YearChrist-churchEast DorsetNorth DorsetPurbeckWest DorsetWeymouth & PortlandDorset Totals

2014/15

4

0

8

2

11

9

34

2015/16

7

7

1

4

7

7

33

2016/17

7

20

0

1

8

2

38

2017/18

4

2

3

2

9

10

30

2018/19

8

2

5

0

9

12

36

Attempts to buy age restricted products

Attempts to buy age restricted products
YearChrist-churchEast DorsetNorth DorsetPurbeckWest DorsetWeymouth & PortlandDorset Totals

2014/15

8

10

7

5

7

20

57

2015/16

12

11

7

12

12

15

69

2016/17

15

8

14

11

15

31

94

2017/18

18

11

10

21

9

13

82

2018/19

23

12

11

12

9

12

79

Sales made as a percentage of the number of attempted test-purchases

Sales made as a percentage of the number of attempted test-purchases
YearChrist-churchEast DorsetNorth DorsetPurbeckWest DorsetWeymouth & PortlandDorset Totals

2014/15

12

0

28

20

0

5

9

2015/16

8

0

14

0

0

20

7

2016/17

24

0

0

0

12

0

6

2017/18

22%

18%

40%

10%

5%

27%

24%

2018/19

22%

0%

0%

0%

22%

17%

11%

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