TWO shops in North Lanarkshire could be banned from selling tobacco and vaping products after illegally selling them to under-18s on several occasions.

It comes after the local council’s trading standards officers recently carried out 42 age-restricted product test purchase attempts in local stores.

During their test, there were three sales of cigarettes and seven of vaping products, which included two shops which sold vapes without checking the customer’s age for the third time.

After that, the owners and members of staff who made the sales were each handed a £600 fine, while Trading Standards will also apply for a banning order.

Another shop which has sold age-restricted items to under-18s on two occasions was given a £400 fine, and retailers who did not follow the law for the first time received a £200 fine.

Michelle McKenna, Trading Standards Manager said: “We carry out regular test purchase exercises to make sure retailers are following the rules, and these latest purchase attempts were targeted at shops we have received complaints about from the public.

“We want to make it clear that we will not tolerate retailers breaking the law and selling tobacco or nicotine vape products to anyone under the age of 18. Shop owners and staff have a responsibility to ask for proof of a customer’s age before making a sale, challenging anyone who looks under 25 years old.

“If anyone has concerns about shops selling these products to underage customers, they can report it to trading standards to investigate.”

Shirley Mawhinney, Senior Health Improvement Manager for Tobacco at NHS Lanarkshire said: “Nicotine vapour products are designed to help adults give up smoking, but they are being targeted at young people with bright coloured packaging and low prices.

“We are only beginning to understand the health risks to under 18s but there is evidence of adverse reactions to vapes among children and the strong advice is not to use them.”

Additionally, in an operation carried out by Trading Standards (TS) Officials earlier this month, 5,740 illegal cigarettes and a quantity of tobacco were seized from premises in Motherwell.

The cigarettes were found concealed, and TS says they would have been difficult to find without the help of Boo, a tobacco detection dog.

The seized goods were a mix of counterfeit and illicit (non-duty paid) products.

Michelle added: “As result of this operation, we have taken a significant amount of illegal cigarettes and tobacco off the market to protect public health and legitimate businesses.

“We will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to criminal activity like this and take enforcement action against those responsible.”

Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, Dr Pete Cheema OBE, said: “It is absolutely right that reducing the illicit sale of tobacco and vaping products should be a primary objective for Trading Standards officers.

“Illicit products are not only potentially harmful for the customers who buy them, the trade of illicit goods damages local businesses who are doing the right thing and complying to the rules.

“The knock-on effect is to fuel organised crime and encourage more people to break the law, harming local communities, undermining the viability of local stores and the important services they provide, and impacting on the Scottish Economy as a whole. 

“That is why SGF has called for the Scottish Government to provide extra resources to help stop the illicit wholesale and retail of these products.”

The operation was run in partnership with HMRC, as part of Operation CeCe Scotland to help tackle illegal tobacco and cigarette sales at a retail level.