MORE than half of Midlothian shopkeepers in a recent test purchase sold cigarettes to under-age volunteers.
Midlothian Council has revealed the figure following a recent undercover operation by trading standards officials.
Two 16-year-olds were recruited by officers to visit 21 tobacco retailers in June.
Eleven shops sold cigarettes to the volunteers, a failure rate of 52 per cent.
The shops received fixed penalty notices for the statutory amount of £200.
Trading standards officers are now planning to step up their campaign to prevent cigarette and tobacco sales to under-18s by clamping down on Midlothian shops registered to sell tobacco.
They will be conducting further test purchasing campaigns over the coming months.
Councillor Owen Thompson (SNP), the council’s deputy leader, said: “We are determined to prevent underage cigarette and tobacco sales in Midlothian.
“Smoking remains one of the biggest contributory factors to Scotland’s poor health record.
“My message to all local retailers is clear: ‘You must ensure that any customer who looks 25 or under is checked for identification’.”
Legislation in 2010 introduced a stricter system of fixed penalty notices in Scotland.
Rather than being taken to court, retailers who sell tobacco products to anyone under 18 years old can face an immediate fine. Those who continue to sell to under-aged customers can be prevented from selling tobacco for up to two years.
Since 2007 it has been illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 18 years old and, since October 2011, all shops wishing to sell tobacco products, have been required by the Scottish Government to be registered to do so.
As part of the registration process, all sellers of tobacco are reminded of the current law relating to underage sales.
For help to stop smoking, phone the NHS Smoke Free helpline on 0800 022 4332 or visit their website at http://smokefree.nhs.uk