The House of Lords has turned down a chance to make the proxy purchasing of tobacco illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

An amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which would have made proxy purchasing an offence, was debated on 14 January before being withdrawn.

Speaking at the debate, Conservative peer and Home Office minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said that more evidence was needed to prove that a ban on proxy purchasing would reduce young people’s access to tobacco.

“In fact, I am concerned that some of the evidence that is currently available suggests that creating a proxy purchasing offence would have only limited benefit,” he said. 

“For example, a Scottish study published in August 2013 looked at how young Scottish smokers living in disadvantaged communities obtained their cigarettes. The study concluded that the introduction of a proxy purchasing offence in Scotland had had little discernible impact.”

Local authorities also needed to make their views known, Lord Taylor added. “After all, they rather than the police would be responsible for enforcement.”

“Proxy purchasing of tobacco is an area that the Department of Health is keeping under review, and any further evidence that is provided will be carefully considered,” he added.

The Association of Convenience Stores and the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) have long campaigned for a ban on proxy purchasing across the UK.

TRA national spokeswoman Debbie Corris said the decision to withdraw the amendment was “a missed opportunity”.

“Proxy purchasing is one of the key ways in which those under 18 get access to tobacco. Adult customers often make no attempt to hide what they are doing and hand over tobacco they have just bought in shops to those under 18 right outside,” she said.