Girl, 14, buys cigarettes from four pubs

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A 14-year-old girl was able to buy cigarettes in four local pubs with vending machines in the city.

The shock findings of the undercover survey, by the council’s Trading Standards team, came as part of a campaign showing how easy it can be for children to smoke.

As part of a long-term project tackling underage sales, they sent the 14-year-old test purchase volunteer into local pubs on July 6 to attempt to buy from cigarette vending machines.

Of the six premises visited, the girl was able to buy a pack of sixteen cigarettes on four separate occasions. This represents a failure rate of 66%.

More alarming, however, is that the child was only challenged by a member of staff in one of the pubs. Another sale was prevented by the use of an activation key held behind the bar.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a campaigning public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco. Their latest survey of smoking among children reveals two-thirds of smokers start before age 18 and that one in seven 15 year olds are regular smokers. In 2006, more than 46,000 11-15 year old regular smokers obtained cigarettes from vending machines in England and Wales.

Smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable deaths in the UK – five times greater than traffic accidents, poisoning, over-dose, alcoholic liver disease, HIV, accidental death, murder and manslaughter combined.

Head of Trading Standards, Karen Ford, said, “We work hard with traders to make sure they understand the importance of not selling tobacco products to underage people. Unfortunately, a few traders are not being vigilant, and as our test shows, children are still able to buy cigarettes from vending machines. We have already had a very strong word with those pubs that failed to show due diligence and vigilance.

“Those premises that allowed cigarettes to be sold need to make urgent changes to ensure proper supervision of vending machine sales”.

In October 2011 legislation is due to take effect which will ban sales of tobacco from vending machines.