Shops fail smoke test

Four out of 15 local shops sold an under-age customer cigarettes during a testing scheme by council health officials, it has been revealed.

Members at last Thursday night’s Regulatory and Operational Services Committee heard that the last time the council carried out this scheme, one shop sold cigarettes to the under-age person.

This time round however 26% of the businesses tested sold cigarettes to the 16 year old assisting the council.

Mayor of Ballymena Audrey Wales told members that she was very disappointed at the results and said that these results were not acceptable.

“I you know how difficult it is to be sure of a person’s age but the are rules there,” she said.

“You train your staff and make sure they know the rules. This is so widely talked about and they should not be selling any under-age product to anybody.

“This shows these four retailers in a very bad light, I’m really disappointed.”

Alderman PJ McAvoy said that ignorance was no excuse, “They have employed them and they have to able to work under the laws of the council and the local area.”

All tobacco retailers had received letters informing them of the exercise and the rules and regulations in place prior to the scheme being conducted. Members heard that three of the retailers that failed the test were able to show ‘due diligence’ in having refusal registers, staff training records and point of sale signs.

However one business that sold to the 16 year old was unable to show this, stating that they relied on verbal training.

The three businesses able to show ‘due diligence’ are to receive formal written warnings while the fourth will receive a formal caution.