Isle of Man Government
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Isle of Man Government Office of Fair Trading

OFT pleased with outcome of underage sales survey

The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading has just completed an underage sales operation (“test purchasing”) of retailers selling cigarettes and is pleased to be able to report that none of the twelve shops tested sold to the underage volunteer.

The operation, which was conducted using strict criteria to ensure the welfare of the volunteer, involved the young person attempting to buy a packet of cigarettes in a range of shops. Accompanied throughout by a Trading Standards Officer, the young person had to reply honestly to any questions asked and to comply with any requests to tell them their age. The young person was challenged at all of the shops and sales refused.

It is an offence under the Children and Young Persons Act 1966 to sell cigarettes to a person under the age of eighteen years and anyone found guilty may be fined up to £1000. Legislation also exists to prevent the sale of videos, solvents and fireworks to underage young people.

The Office is now asking for volunteers to take part in future “test purchasing” programmes. Volunteers should be aged 14-16 for tobacco sales and have their parent’s/guardian’s approval to take part. The OFT, together with the police, are currently looking to undertake test purchasing operations into the sale of alcohol. For this the Office requires 18 year old volunteers. Anyone interested should contact Trading Standards Officer Suzanne McPhillips who can tell them more. More information is also available on the Office’s website

“Test purchasing” involves young volunteers accompanied by undercover Trading Standards staff attempting to purchase age-restricted goods in shops. If a sale is made then a prosecution of the retailer or licensee may follow. Parental/guardian consent is required for the young person to take part and strict criteria are in place to ensure the welfare of the young person who is never unaccompanied during the duration of the operation.

Chairman of the OFT Bill Henderson MHK commenting on the survey said

”I was very pleased with the outcome of the survey. It shows that retailers are taking their responsibilities seriously and I applaud them for that. The Office is very supportive of retailers but trading standards primary role is to enforce the law and if breaches occur prosecutions will be considered. The Board of the Office require trading standards staff to tackle this issue with vigour and determination. There are serious health and social issues associated with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco especially amongst our younger more vulnerable members of our community. Volunteers are vital to ensure that we can carry out the work. A code of practice has been developed to ensure that the welfare of volunteers is protected. Suzanne would be delighted to hear from anyone who is interested in helping us."

Statistics on tobacco “test purchasing” programmes are supplied to the Department of Health and Social Security in relation to Government’s Tobacco Strategy.

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