THE owner of Harris Newsagents in Dunchurch has been prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service after his store sold cigarettes to a 15 year old child.
Harkewal Singh Rai had previously received a caution for the same offence after a child volunteer was able to buy cigarettes in his newsagents in June 2010.
In March of this year, a 15 year old child volunteer attempted to purchase Lambert and Butler cigarettes from his shop. The shop assistant sold without querying the age of the child or asking for identification.
At Nuneaton Magistrates Court on November 24, Rai, 47, was found guilty of the offence of selling cigarettes to a person under the age of 18 under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and fined £270 with a victim surcharge of £15. The judge also made an order for costs at £1,180.25.
In mitigation it was said on Rai’s behalf that he was a self-employed business owner who was reliant on his employees carrying out his instructions.
Standards of staff training had been improved since the offence was committed and the current salesperson had been sent on a training course.
Warwickshire Trading Standards Service periodically carry out undercover cigarette test purchase exercises with the assistance of young people under the age of 18, the legal age to buy cigarettes.
Officers work closely with retailers to advise them of the measures they need to take to avoid selling cigarettes to children. These include adequate staff training, implementing Challenge 25, promoting ID card, displaying warning signs and posters and keeping a refusals book.
However, when store owners do not take their responsibilities seriously and repeatedly sell cigarettes to children and young people, under the age of 18, the service can take further enforcement action, including prosecution.
Warwickshire County Councillor Richard Hobbs, Portfolio Holder for Community Protection said: “We know from the NHS that half of all people smoking today will eventually die as a result of their habit and half of these will die prematurely in middle age, losing 20-25 years of life expectancy.
It is essential therefore that we do all we can to stop children and young people getting access to tobacco because we know that most people who take up smoking do so before they reach the age of 18.”