Labour has vowed to make tobacco proxy purchasing illegal in England and Wales – as it is in Scotland.
It has vowed to introduce the law change in its manifesto, should the change fail to win the backing of Parliament.
Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said: “Buying alcohol on behalf of underage children is already illegal, so it doesn’t make sense not to have the same penalty for tobacco products. Most young smokers have their cigarettes bought for them by another person, so it’s vital that we address this.”
According to new Trading Standards figures 52% of underage smokers claim to get their cigarettes from a “proxy purchaser” such as an older family member or friend.
The move has been welcomed by The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers are currently faced with different rules for different age restricted products and are not supported by the law when attempting to tackle the purchase of tobacco for minors.
“Retailers need a joined up approach from government, local authorities and trading standards help them in tackling underage consumption of tobacco and alcohol, and this must be supported by robust legislation and enforcement. Making proxy purchasing of tobacco illegal would be an important step forward.”
In addition, an amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill, which would see anyone caught buying tobacco for a child fined up to £5,000, has been proposed by Labour peer Baroness Angela Smith.