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Gloucestershire Business News

REVEALED: County-wide vape sting smokes out big rise in underage sales

Undercover test purchases carried out in 21 stores across Gloucestershire have revealed that FOUR retailers were happy to hand over the vapes to underage customers.

And the latest undercover probe shows the issue is getting worse.

No age challenges or checks were made for ID by the shops visited by Trading Standards on five occasions after volunteer police cadets paid undercover visits to traders in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud, the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds.

With five out of 21 stores failing to prevent the nicotine drug going into the wrong hands, this means that the county's retailers scored a 24% failure rate.

A spokesman said: "Trading standards carried out test purchase operations, supported by the police cadets, in the last week of May 2024."

The test runs found that on five occasions at four different stores, a nicotine vape was sold with no one questioned age or asking for identification.

They added: "The retailers that did not sell to the underage volunteers had received advice in the past about sales to under-18s and the majority asked for ID from the volunteer."

In 2022, 80% passed a similar test operation, but in 2023 there was a 100% pass rate, so the results indicate the issue is worsening.

Jason Poole, acting head of Trading Standards at Shire Hall, said: "Trading standards will write to the shops that failed within the next week advising them that a sale took place and reminding them of their legal responsibilities. A further survey will take place later in the year and if they fail again they could face prosecution."

He added: "We recognise that the rise in vaping is a real worry for parents and guardians which is why we carry out these test purchase operations. We will provide additional guidance to shops to ensure they do not sell to anyone underage.

"Although only four retailers sold to someone under 18, one is too many. If they are found selling again in the follow-up operation they may find themselves subject to an investigation which could lead to prosecution."

NHS guidelines on vaping state: "Nicotine vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, but it is not risk-free. That's why there's a minimum age of sale for vaping products in the UK. It is illegal to sell nicotine vaping products to anyone under 18 or for adults to buy them on behalf of under-18s."

To report underage sales of vaping products, contact tradingstandards@gloucestershire.gov.uk  or report anonymously via Crimestoppers.

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