18/04/2024 - Permalink

Crackdown on the sale of age-restricted products 

Related topics: Health / Public protection

Shropshire Council’s trading standards team have been out and about across the county to prevent local retailers from selling vapes and other age-restricted goods to young people aged under 18.  

Two vaping devices on a white background


Over the last year the team undertook 59 test purchases across the county – 17 for alcohol, 36 for vapes and six for knives.  Of these, three retailers sold alcohol, eight retailers sold vapes, and one retailer sold a knife.  These sales resulted in the following enforcement outcomes:- 

  • Alcohol – one prosecution, one written warning and one pending decision.  
  • Vapes – one concluded prosecution, two pending prosecutions, four written warnings, one pending decision.  
  • Knife sale – community resolution issued by police.

This work forms part of the regional work undertaken by Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA), of which Shropshire Council is part of.  CEnTSA has recently warned that retailers face further test purchases and strict enforcement action in a bid to clamp down on the illegal sales of age-restricted products to children.   

The warning comes after the release of the latest figures for the period April 2023 to March 2024, which shows that out of 742 premises visited by trading standards across the region, 24% of businesses sold an age-restricted product including alcohol, tobacco, vapes and fireworks.   

An additional operation focussing on Botox and other cosmetic filler treatments found that young volunteers were able to book appointments at 16 of the 18 premises visited/contacted; this is a shocking 88% non-compliance rate.   

Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s head of business and consumer protection, and CEnTSA’s Management Board champion for age restricted sales, said:- 

“Fundamentally trading standards wants to work with businesses to ensure they comply with the law and act responsibly.However, where necessary, we will not hesitate to take robust enforcement action, especially where previous advice is ignored.  The law relating to sales of alcohol, tobacco, nicotine vaping products, fireworks and other age-restricted products and services exist to protect children and young people from harm; and for this reason trading standards takes its role in preventing sales of age-restricted products very seriously.  We regularly carry out test purchasing exercises to ensure businesses are complying with the law, and will take enforcement action to prevent unacceptable and illegal sales across the retail sector.

“Following the latest test purchasing operations undertaken during the course of 2023/24, I am particularly concerned about the ease with which our young volunteers were able to book Botox and other cosmetic filler appointments. Practitioners and businesses involved in the cosmetics industry do need to take the requirements of the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2021 much more seriously and ensure arrangements to administer Botox or cosmetic fillers are not made with children.” 

 Chris Schofield, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for planning and regulatory services, added:- 

“Our trading standards team play a significant role in supporting the delivery of The Shropshire Plan, particularly around the Healthy People and Health Economy priorities, with the work undertaken by the team to prevent age-restricted sales key to delivering these priorities. 

“No-one can fail to have noticed the significant increase in the popularity of vapes with teenagers and even younger children, and as the long-term health risks are not yet clear, this is of serious concern to the council and our partners. Vapes are also not easy to dispose of, as they shouldn’t be put in the bin or recycled at home. It means that many are discarded inappropriately, posing a significant threat to the environment.   

“The early intervention work undertaken by trading standards is invaluable in preventing young people, below the legal age of 18, from accessing vapes and other age-restricted products from businesses that are prepared to flout the law and put the health of the local community at risk for their own financial gain. 

 “Trading standards will continue to employ the use of test purchasing exercises throughout the year ahead, targeting businesses where we have received intelligence that underage sales may be occurring.  Where retailers fail to comply with the legal requirements placed on them, necessary and appropriate enforcement action will be taken to ensure there is a level playing field for legitimate businesses who comply with the law; helping to develop Shropshire as a strong, safe and attractive place for people to live, work, visit and invest.”  

Shropshire Council encourages individuals to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 if they have any suspicions that retailers may be selling age- restricted products to minors.  Information can be given anonymously and will always be treated in line with the council’s information governance policies.    

Shropshire-based traders who wish to seek further advice on their legal obligations should first access the guidance available on Business Companion by searching for underage/age-restricted sales.  If further detailed assistance is required, traders can contact trading standards on 0345 678 9000.