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Local authorities encouraged to be tough with shop-keepers who flout the law ...
Local authorities encouraged to be tough with shop-keepers who flout the law

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

has been launched today.

It is a joint initiative by the department of health and department

of trade and industry, which has the responsibility for local trading

standards oficers.

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

the under-16s.'

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

cessation services.

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 control



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.


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:


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

enforcement action.

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,

Cabinet Office,

Horse Guards Rd,

London SW1P 3AL

Tel 0207 270 6928

Fax 0207 270 6402

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