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As many as 13% of independent retailers are victims of verbal abuse every day for refusing to sell an age-restricted product to an underage consumer, according to an exclusive poll for Convenience Store.

The survey shows that a further 12% of retailers experience verbal abuse twice a week, with another 7% suffering weekly, which means that one in three stores across the country are victims of verbal abuse at least once a week simply for implementing the law on underage sales. Alarmingly, 3% of retailers say a sales refusal leads to violence at least weekly.

The survey, carried out by Knowledge Store, quizzed 101 independent retailers last month. It revealed that while 79% of retailers were in favour of the government increasing the minimum legal age for purchasing tobacco, 65% said it was 'very important' and 25% said it was 'vital' that this change should be advertised to consumers. When asked when this campaign should start, 90% said 'immediately'.

However, the Department of Health has informed Convenience Store that it is not planning any consumer advertising of the age change until September, when teenagers will be targeted in partnership with schools. See the article No early ads for age change for more on the DoH's plans.

Despite the problems surrounding age-restricted goods, most retailers were on good terms with police and local authority test purchasers. More than one in three stores always receives feedback following test purchasing operations, while 28% of store owners said that the authorities often gave useful advice.
Nearly 90% of retailers said that they will give staff extra training in the run-up to the age change in October.

Read the full survey here

Have your say

Should the government do more to support retailers as the tobacco purchasing age change approaches?

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Readers Comments:

Nigel Dowdney:

Several members of my staff are now saying that they do not wish to work behind the tills because of abuse from the public when carrying out our Challenge 21 rules and because of the threat of being tricked into selling to an underage person by trading standards.
My staff are very concerned about the test purchasing campaign which has just started, particularly at what they see as draconian punishments for those who are tricked into selling to an underage person; by the fact that the authorities are lying and using false IDs as methods to trick staff into selling; and by the fact that no-one is ever prosecuted for attempting to purchase underage.

Alan Rimmer:

Teenagers are offensive, callous and disrespectful to anyone who dares to deny them anything, and as long as the authorities fear reprisals from them nothing will change. The education institutes should be teaching today's feral youth that human rights are a two way street - and why are magistrates not naming and shaming families who bring up such abusive, violent and ill-educated teenagers? Jailing the parents for dereliction of parenting duties may just make future parents think twice.
First though we need a police force that is not afraid of its own shadow - they are nowhere to be seen unless there is an easy fine to dish out to someone.

Jan Groundsell:

A whole host of age-restricted purchases already exists. Add fraud, truancy watch and smoking on public premises to the list and the poor old shopkeeper will be the only one taking responsibility for anything! Hello! Is there anyone else out there accountable? Children? Parents? Police? No? That'll be just us then, right?