Merton Council trading standards officers have visited 370 businesses across the borough to help them combat youth crime and ensure young people cannot get hold of dangerous weapons, alcohol, fireworks or cigarettes.
It is illegal for traders to sell offensive weapons such as knives to under 18s. Tobacco, alcohol, lighter refills with butane and most fireworks also cannot be sold to teenagers under the age of 18. Lottery tickets, instant scratch cards and aerosol spray paints in turn must not be sold to under 16s.
The council’s trading standards officers have provided shopkeepers with special Retail Information Packs containing advice on what they can and cannot sell to young people. The packs also have posters informing the public they will not sell age-restricted goods to under-age children and a Refusal Register where traders can record details of those youngsters who have tried to buy restricted items illegally.
Nationally there are concerns young people are buying cigarettes from vending machines in pubs and hotel lobbies. Merton Council is advising owners and licensees on the amount of advertising allowed on the machines. They are also advising them to be aware of where the machines are in the building so staff can observe who is using them. It is essential staff are trained on how to deal with children trying to illegally buy cigarettes from these machines.
Merton Council trading standards will also test retailers to make sure they are adhering to the law by sending supervised teenagers – who clearly look underage – into stores to find out whether traders will sell them alcohol, knives or any other age-restricted goods.
The council’s cabinet member for regeneration Councillor Diane Neil Mills said: “Most retailers take their responsibilities very seriously and we are working in partnership with them to give them the tools they need to comply with the law. The sale of age-restricted goods to young people can cause significant problems for our community.
“We are committed to prioritising the safety of our residents and their right to live in a pleasant environment and we will take strong action against those who blatantly sell these goods to children – putting our young people as well as adults at risk – in contravention of the law.”