Almost one in six businesses in Nottinghamshire sold tobacco to under-18s during a recent test purchase operation across the county. Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards Officers worked with volunteers aged 15 to 17 on the operation at newsagents, grocers, petrol station and small supermarkets in the districts of Ashfield, Newark and Sherwood, Broxtowe and Bassetlaw.

Of the 57 premises checked during week commencing 22nd August, sales were made to the young volunteers in nine. But no sales to under-18s were made at the premises tested in Ashfield.

Owners at the nine shops will now be interviewed by Trading Standards Officers and a decision will be taken on what, if any, action will be taken against them.

Shops can be fined up to £2,500 if found guilty of selling cigarettes to under-18s.

If a premises, person or company sells tobacco or Avalon cigarette papers to under 18s twice in two years, the County Council can apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a Restricted Premises Order or a Restricted Sales Order, which can ban sales for a period of up to a year.

Coun Mick Murphy, cabinet member for community safety at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “It is disappointing that so many premises in Nottinghamshire have been willing to sell tobacco products to children without challenge, despite clear guidance to the contrary.

“Trading Standards work closely with local businesses who want to ensure that they do not sell tobacco to under-18s by giving advice on their legal responsibilities, as well as tips on how to avoid selling all age-restricted products to young people.

But whilst we recognise that the majority of retailers are responsible, we will come down hard on those who flout the law.”