Two incidents last month illustrated the dilemma retailers of all sizes face when adults buy alcoholic drinks in the presence of a child.

First, a Tesco supermarket in Hampshire refused to serve a woman who came in to purchase a bottle of wine, because her  14-year-old daughter was with her. Once the younger woman had been sent outside, the sale was authorised.

Then, in contrast, Chesterfield retailer Jasbir Mann sold wine to what he thought was a mother with her teenage daughter, only to be informed that she was in fact a trading standards officer and, as the younger woman had handed over the money, he had sold alcohol to a minor.

In both cases, retailers who feared for their licence and livelihood were forced to take decisions which would not be theirs to make if the existing law which makes it illegal for adults to pass alcoholic drinks on to under-18s was properly publicised and rigorously enforced.

With No ID No Sale and Challenge 25 initiatives now the industry standard, it's harder for the authorities to pin the blame for underage drinking on the retailer. That's why Convenience Store is calling for a more balanced approach to tackling the sources of supply to children. Although shop theft and illicit supplies contribute to the problem, we believe that rigorous enforcement of anti-proxy purchasing legislation would have the single most significant impact on youth drinking levels.

The law exists - and with your help, we'd like to see it enforced.

Some local councils have made significant efforts to address proxy purchasing. Campaigns in Dorset, Lancashire and Hampshire have seen posters distributed to c-stores, off licences and pubs, and displayed in bus shelters, which remind adults that proxy purchasing of alcohol for minors can result in a fine of up to £5,000 and a court appearance. Working with police, pubs and retailers, councils have begun to tackle this overlooked offence.

If they can do it, so can your local authority. If they want to reduce underage drinking, and the social ills which go with it, they will want to give the problem of proxy purchasing the attention it deserves.
What you can do:
● Demonstrate your responsible approach to selling alcohol with a Challenge 25 policy, keep an up-to-date refusals register and carry out continuous staff training

● Contact your local authority or police liaison officer and explain to them how a proxy crackdown would reduce youth drinking and social disorder in your area

● Volunteer your knowledge of the local community - including CCTV footage - to help prosecute adults who buy for children.
What we're calling for
● Government to accept that adults are the main route of supply to children and for it to introduce measures to dissuade them from them buying for kids

● Enforcement of prosecution of convicted proxy purchasers of age-restricted goods

● Investment in community schemes to educate the public on the social costs of supplying age-restricted products to children.

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