Cautious welcome for plan to up minimum smoking age

12 January, 2007

Retailers say move will cut income but help combat under-age booze-buying

Increasing the minimum age for buying tobacco to 18 will result in lost revenue for retailers, but those contacted by OLN welcomed the move.

Reacting to Department of Health plans to change the law from Oct 1 this year, Arun Rajha, of The Off Licence in Tooting, London, said: "I don't think it will affect business very much. I think it's a good thing that the government's trying to stop people smoking."

John Mitchell, of Mitchell's Wines in Sheffield, stopped selling tobacco to under-18s six months ago, in the wake of a failed under-age sting, and has found it easier to avoid selling alcohol to under-age drinkers since.

"It has put our sales down, but if

we have nobody in the shop under

18, we can't break the law on drink," he said.

Kultar Chandler, of Jobi's Off Licence in Stoke-on-Trent, said: "It's a tricky one - it will affect sales a little, but it is good in a way, because we'll just have one age to work with."

Some of the retailers said they were worried that teenagers currently allowed to buy tobacco would react badly when the law changes.

Ismail Kamalak, of Star Wine in Enfield, said: "It's going to be a problem telling the older ones to get out of the shop if they want cigarettes.

"If they are 15 and 16 it's not so bad, but the older ones , the 17-year-olds, might give us problems."

The Association of Convenience Stores has asked the government to invest ­heavily in a publicity campaign to ensure young people are fully aware of the law change when it comes into effect in October.

Chief executive James Lowman said: "As a result of this change in the law, many customers who were previously able to buy tobacco will now not be able to overnight and it is retailers who will be on the front line in enforcing the new age.

"It is essential there is a well-funded and effectively targeted communications campaign to explain the change in the law and ensure that local retailers and their staff are not faced with abuse and intimidation from young customers."

The Department of Health said it will launch a publicity campaign in the next few months.

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