Shops warned of illegal cigarette sales

SHOPKEEPERS were today given a stark warning that they will be caught if they try to sell cigarettes to underage kids.

SHOPKEEPERS were today given a stark warning that they will be caught if they try to sell cigarettes to underage kids.

The caution was issued by Trading Standards officers who have launched a week-long crackdown in which four Suffolk businesses were busted making illegal sales.

And they told shops not to be tempted into selling to youngsters because of pressures of the credit crunch.

Four businesses have been caught out by children working for officers in Ipswich and Felixstowe and could face fines of up to £2,500.

Inspectors suspect that some retailers, under pressure from the credit crunch, may be tempted to make illegal sales, but warned that they face fines if caught out.

The week-long crackdown moved to Stowmarket yesterday where a 15-year-old girl tried unsuccessfully to purchase cigarettes from staff at Tesco, who correctly asked for ID and refused to make the sale.

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The 15-year-old from Ipswich, who volunteered to take part in the operation and did not want to be identified, said: “I went in, browsed for a bit, then picked up some confectionary and asked for ten Mayfair.

“The lady brought them down from the rack and asked for ID. I said I did not have any and she said she would not sell them to me.

“I think that it's right that youngsters should be stopped from buying cigarettes. The law is the law, even if you disagree with it.”

Mary Baines, a Trading Standards officer taking part in the undercover operation, said: “We targeted 13 premises on one day and four sold, which is quite high and disappointing.

“We are trying to prevent sales to children and to protect their health and stop them smoking. Hopefully the operation will get the message across to retailers and will help reduce this problem.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the operation is part of a regional project looking at the sale of cigarettes to under-18s.

She said the first part of the campaign was carried out in September. In total, 45 visits were carried out across the county to offer advice to traders about how to prevent sales.

Trading Standards will decide what action to take at the end of the operation and said persistent offenders could face prosecution.

What is your view of businesses selling to under-age people? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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