Northampton shops face rap after trading standards 'sting' catches them selling vapes to under-18s

Stores allowed 15-year-old to buy goods reserved for adults without checking age or ID

By Kevin Nicholls
Monday, 28th February 2022, 2:11 pm
Updated Monday, 28th February 2022, 2:12 pm

Two Northampton shops are being investigated after being caught selling vapes to a 15-year-old girl during a 'sting' operation.

West Northamptonshire Council trading standards team followed up complaints of under-age sales at five shops in the town.

A teenager visited all five shops under the supervision of officers, attempting to buy vapes or cigarettes — which are both illegal for under-18s to buy in the UK.

Two shops failed a test and sold vapes to a 15-year-old.

Three shops passed the test by asking the test purchaser for an ID and refusing sale when she was unable to produce any.

However two more sold the girl vapes without checking her age.

Councillor David Smith, the council's cabinet member for regulatory services, said: “The vast majority of businesses are helping to keep our children safe by checking for ID before selling age-restricted products.

"Unfortunately a small minority continue to fail in their responsibilities, and it is those people that we target with test purchasing operations such as this.

“Asking someone how old they are, or making an assumption about their age is not enough."

Most businesses do this by operating a Challenge 25 policy. If a customer looks under the age of 25, proof of age is required, and staff must be trained to verify the customer’s age before selling age-restricted products.

Cllr Smith added: "We would encourage sellers to follow the Challenge 25 policy, by asking for a valid and recognised photo ID to be shown by anyone who looks like they could be under the age of 25.”

Although vaping and e-cigarettes are promoted as a healthier alternative to tobacco, they are banned for under-18s as experts believe teenagers using vapes could be tempted to try cigarettes.

The vape test purchases were part of an enforcement project supported by the Department of Health & Social Care that aims to ensure e-cigarettes or e-liquids are not sold to under-18s.

People can report under-age sales to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or phone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.