Five shops were caught selling nicotine inhaling products to underage teens during a recent test-purchasing exercise.
They were among seven visited in Leighton Buzzard, Woburn, Houghton Regis, Toddington and Westoning by Central Beds Council’s Trading Standards team.
The council is not releasing the names of the offending premises.
Two girls, aged 16 and 17, volunteered to take part in the exercise to make sure that shops are checking young people’s ages to ensure they are old enough to buy items they are sold – which are restricted to anyone aged 18 and over. And the results prove that the majority visited aren’t carrying out these checks as they allowed the teenagers to buy the e-liquids, which are used in electronic cigarettes.
Councillor Brian Spurr said: “The shops targeted in exercises like these are ones where we already have suspicions that they are selling age-related products to children too young to buy them.
“All of the shops who sold the products will receive a warning letter and receive another visit to check that they are complying with the law.
“These age restrictions are not decided by us but by the government which changed the law last October to make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes and e-liquids to under 18s.”
E-cigarettes are aimed at those trying to quit smoking, because while they still contain small amounts of nicotine they do not have many of the harmful chemicals contained in normal cigarettes.
However, vaping has become increasingly popular with young people in recent years due to fruit-flavoured products being targeted at this market.
While the overall effects on users’ health is still unknown, health experts say that the best way to stay safe is by avoiding all tobacco-related products and electronic devices like these.
That message is reinforced locally by the Public Health Kick Ash programme, which is led by teenagers to steer their fellow under-16s away from smoking.
A recent Valentine’s promotion had the theme of ‘would you kiss a smoker’, while the message will be ramped up on national No Smoking Day on Wednesday, March 9.
Cllr Maurice Jones, Executive Member for Health, said: “From national figures we know that two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18. E-cigarettes and e-liquids may be seen differently to conventional cigarettes by young people. However, they still contain nicotine –which is the thing that gets you hooked.
“That’s why we’re extending the Kick Ash programme to more Central Bedfordshire schools so that a greater number of young people can make an informed decision about cigarettes and e-cigarettes and have the confidence to spread the smoke-free message to their peers.”
For further information about Kick Ash visit www.kickash.org.uk.
And if you suspect somewhere is selling items to people too young to buy them, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 300 8307.