6 December 2023

Test purchase exercise highlights shocking failures

“Do better or face the consequences” –that’s the message from Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection following a test purchasing exercise that resulted in a 100% failure rate.

Vapes lined up.
String richText

Last week, ten premises across Blackpool were visited by a 15-year-old girl who attempted to buy e-cigarettes containing nicotine, not one asked her for proof of age.

Test purchasing is where young people are used to test compliance on access to products or services that have legal age restrictions. These exercises are regularly carried out by the council’s trading standards team on a variety of products including alcohol, cigarettes, knives and in this case, vapes.

The venues were a range of businesses including shops, licensed venues and petrol stations. Each of these will now be contacted and appropriate enforcement action taken.

A repeat visit will be made in the next three months, if a second failure occurs the premises could be at risk of closure.

Quote quote
Cllr Paula Burdess, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “This is completely unacceptable. Not one of the ten premises the team visited asked for proof of age, not one. “Businesses must do better. If they are unsure of the legislation regarding e-cigarettes, they can ask our team for help. No child should be able to walk into a shop in Blackpool and buy an age-restricted product. “All of the premises will now be contacted by our trading standards team who will take the appropriate enforcement action. Repeat offenders risk having their business closed.”
String richText

Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health, said: 

Quote quote
“Earlier this year, research was carried regarding the number of children and young people who vape. The research was commissioned due to rising concerns around the popularity and visibility of vaping in children and young people. “We found that vapes appeared to be easily accessible for children and young people, the most commonly reported ways that they acquired vapes being buying them at corner shops, vape-shops and receiving vapes from friends and family. “E-cigarettes are an age-restricted product because there is potential for users to become addicted to nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. Vaping is not a risk-free alternative particularly for those who have never smoked and we do not yet know the long-term effects of vaping on health. “I was horrified to hear the outcome of this test purchasing exercise. Some of the products purchased were definitely branded and marketed to appeal to young people, one was even in the style of a fidget toy.”
String richText

The visit also uncovered some shops selling illegal vaping products. These were seized by officers and removed from the consumer market.