A new set of guidelines aimed at reducing the number of under-age
smokers by identifying breaches of the law and carrying out
high-profile prosecutions of retailers who sell to children under 16
It is a joint initiative by the department of health and department
of trade and industry, which has the responsibility for local trading
The best practice code, known as the tobacco enforcement protocol,
has been agreed with LACOTS (Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on
Food and Trading Standards) and the Local Government Association. It
was foreshadowed in the government's White Paper Smoking Kills and is
part of the overall tobacco education programme to reduce smoking,
which kills 120,000 people every year.
There are already examples of good practice, such as Kingston which
uses children working under-cover to carry out test purchasing in
order to catch offending shop-keepers. Such a programme with the help
of a 13 year old girl found that 45 per cent of retailers sold
tobacco to under-age children. Following a series of high-profile
prosecutions the figure was reduced to only 10 per cent.
Public health minister Yvette Cooper said, 'I welcome this code of
best practice which has the full support of the local authorities.
Too many shop-keepers still sell illegally to children. Any action
that can be taken to stop harmful tobacco products falling into the
hands of children will reduce the chances of them ever becoming
smokers in the future,' she said.
Kim Howells, DTI minister for consumer protection said, 'I am very
pleased to see this initiative that will hopefully help lower the
number of under-age smokers in this country. Local trading standards
officers will now be able to use these guidelines to come down hard
on retailers who are breaking the law by selling tobacco products to
Alison Edwards, LACOTS senior executive officer said, 'The Local
Government Association and LACOTS are pleased to be part of the
launch of the protocol. It is a demonstration of best practice in
'The LGA and LACOTS have worked in partnership with local authorities
and the department of health to produce this guidance. It is to be
hoped that it can be used by local authorities as a means of
demonstrating their role in the reduction of under-age tobacco
sales,' she said.
The full text of the protocol and examples of best practice at the end of these notes.
In 1998 around 11 per cent of 11-15 year olds smoked regularly
compared to only eight per cent 10 years before. Girls in particular
are still smoking - in 1988 just one in five (22 per cent) of 15 year
old girls smoked regularly whereas this had risen to almost one in
three (29 per cent) in 1998.
One of the key targets in the White Paper Smoking Kills is to reduce
smoking among children from 13 per cent to nine per cent or less by
the year 2010, with a fall to at least 11 per cent by 2005. The White
Paper was the first comprehensive anti-smoking strategy ever in this
country.£50m has been committed to a major tobacco education
campaign over three years, and up to£60m to fund new smoking
Other measures are:
- a ban on tobacco advertising
- a public places charter with the licensed trade covering smoking
in pubs, bars and restaurants
- co-operation with WHO on a new international convention on
TOBACCO ENFORCEMENT PROTOCOL
This Protocol is intended to assist Local Authorities in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland when determining the action needed with
regard to the enforcement of the Children and Young Persons
(Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991. (In Northern Ireland this is the
Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Order
1991.(Scottish Authorities will be advised by the Scottish Tobacco
Enforcement Protocol available from the Scottish Executive.)
It underpins the Principles of Good Enforcement outlined in the joint
sponsored Local Authority Associations / Cabinet Office Enforcement
Concordat published in March 1998 which is available from The Better
Regulation Unit of the Cabinet Office (1).
The Concordat aims to ensure that Enforcement Authorities :
publish performance standards,
are open and helpful,
provide a means to complain and follow up on complaints received,
ensure that, whenever possible, the impact of legislation is
proportional, act in a consistent manner.
It is hoped that authorities will wish to utilise the examples of
enforcement practice detailed in this protocol in connection with
under age sales of tobacco to form a part of their overall programme
of enforcement in relation to the wider objectives of the joint Local
Authority Associations / Cabinet Office Enforcement Concordat. This
may be demonstrable by action such as the setting up of complaints
procedures, and the use of effective but proportionate enforcement
techniques in relation to sales of tobacco to minors.
This Protocol outlines examples of good practice in the area of
tobacco enforcement which reinforce the Concordat's aims.
KEY PRINCIPLES OF GOOD ENFORCEMENT
It is recommended that Local Authorities should:
Publish a clear statement on dealing with underage sales of tobacco.
This may form part of a statement on age-restricted sales in general.
Assess the current degree of local compliance. This might be via
regular visits from enforcement officers or through a specific under
age sales programme involving young people as part of a test
purchasing programme. This type of assessment should inform Local
Authorities of high risk areas which need to be specifically targeted
and enable the identification of enforcement action required by
Trading Standards Services.
Publish an annual review of enforcement action. This is requiredby
the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco Act) 1991 and
Home Office Circular 17/1992 gives guidance. Local Authorities should
consider whom they need to consult before the review is published.
Encourage Trading Standards Service education of retailers to help
ensure compliance in accordance with the business support approach of
the LACOTS Home Authority Principle Target enforcement action on
those who flagrantly disregard their legal obligations.
Highlight the value of nationally recognised proof of Age schemes
enabling retailers to meet their obligations with confidence.
Encourage a 'No Proof - No Sale' approach.
Use test purchasing where permissible with under-age children to
gather information about breaches of the law. This can inform reviews
of enforcement action or aid prosecutions.
Publicise enforcement action taken, including prosecutions and fines
to act as deterrents. Publicise prosecutions in the press to maximise
effectiveness. Evaluate the impact of these measures and use the
information to inform future actions.
Develop and implement local education campaigns to highlight the
problem of illegal sales of tobacco products.
This protocol has been adopted by:
The Department of Health
Local Authorities Coordinating Body on Food and
Trading Standards (LACOTS)
Local Government Association
Further copies may be obtained from the following: www.doh.gov.uk
Annex 1 EXAMPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE
Many authorities are demonstrating good practice in the area of
enforcing the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco)
Act. The following are examples only and do not represent a
comprehensive review of all practice in this area. They are intended
to be examples and signatories to this protocol are not required to
follow them. They are intended to assist with practical ways in which
action may be undertaken with due regard to resource constraints etc.
The involvement of partners
The aim of Buckinghamshire County Council is to involve as many
partners as possible in its Under Age Sales Project. Suggested
partners included Education Department, Schools, Social Services
Department. Communications Unit, Police, Health Authority, District
Council, Retailers, Commercial Sponsors, Trade Associations,
Voluntary Groups and Fire and Rescue Service. In addition
Buckinghamshire have employed an Under Age Sales Project Manager to
deal with tobacco and other age related concerns. It is felt that
effectiveness can be vastly improved by having a dedicated resource
in this area of enforcement activity.
Comprehensive test purchasing programme
14. Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council have used the Policy
Document produced by the City of Liverpool and the Home Office
Guidelines to begin child-assisted test purchasing exercises. Recent
technological advances such as covert video/audio recording equipment
and digital photography have been used to increase the quality of
evidence. All breaches of the law were dealt with via prosecution,
cautions or warnings. Publicise prosecutions and test purchasing
Many Authorities currently use local media to publicise successful
prosecutions. This has proven an effective deterrent in Kingston.
A test purchase programme using the assistance of a 13 year old girl
found that, in 1990, 45% of retailers sold tobacco to children.
Following a series of high-profile prosecutions the figure was
reduced to 10% in 1995. The publication in the press of test
purchasing results may also increase the deterrent effect of
Production of a best practice guide
The Association of London Chief Trading Standards Officers has
produced a guide for their local authorities who carry out test
purchasing with the assistance of children. This covers sales of
videos, fireworks and intoxicants as well as tobacco so can form part
of a wider strategy. The guide includes best practice guidance,
parental consent forms and a summary of procedures.
Good practice award for retailers
Southampton Health Promotion Services and Hampshire Trading Standards
Service have launched a scheme called 'Too young to die, too young to
buy!' to recognise the effort and good practice of retailers whilst
raising public awareness of the issue of under age sales of tobacco.
The award includes staff training material for retailers, a refused
sales register to show compliance with the regulations and
promotional material for display to the public. Within Hampshire
there are 43 retailers signed up so far (mainly independent
retailers) and in 2000 the scheme will be expanded to include Havant,
Gosport and Rushmoor
Provision of Business Advice Leaflets
Hampshire County Council's fact sheet is used as an example although
other authorities produce similar material. The fact sheet contains
information about the relevant legislation, summarising the
requirements for retailers in terms of selling cigarettes and the
warning notices which must be displayed. It also details who to
contact for further information.
The Better Regulation Unit,
Horse Guards Rd,
London SW1P 3AL
Tel 0207 270 6928
Fax 0207 270 6402