The results of the national Tackling Underage Sales of Alcohol Campaign (TUSAC) released by the Home Office show that in nearly 9,000 test purchase operations, underage shoppers were only able to obtain alcohol in 14.7% of cases - down from 20% in 2006 and 50% in 2004. In the off trade specifically, 14% of the 7,408 operations produced a failure, compared to 18% in the on-trade.
The figures were released just days after the Prime Minister used a major speech to single out c-stores and off-licences as major contributors to the problem of underage drinking (C-Store, October 5).
The results, which come from a 10-week campaign by police and trading standards between May 4 and July 13, are especially encouraging as, while many previous enforcement campaigns have been conducted on a random basis, this year's programme targeted premises already known to be problematic. However, 17 off licences are among the premises now facing huge fines as a result of failing three consecutive tests, with three licences already revoked.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) was delighted at the results, which it said proved the effectiveness of the trade's initiatives to tackle underage purchase attempts.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "It is gratifying that the government's response to these figures recognises the progress that is being made, but we remain frustrated that leading politicians have publicly singled out off-licences for criticism. We need to continue a constructive dialogue seeking comprehensive solutions and ACS will continue to work with the industry and government."
Chris Allison, deputy assistant commissioner at police body ACPO, said the industry had "played a major part in delivering the improvement".
2007 test purchase figures
l 9,000 operations
l 2,199 off-licences tested
l 484 pubs tested
l Failure rates down to 14.7%
l 0.8% sold alcohol to children on three separate occasions
l 22 premises face £10,000 fine after failing three stings