As C-Store went to press, amendments to the Bill, which include penalties for proxy purchasers, were due to be debated during the Committee Stage in the House of Commons on November 29, under the title 'Persistent sales of tobacco to persons under 18'.
The amendments are being proposed in response to government plans for a 'negative' licensing system for tobacco retailers, which were also due to be debated.
Magistrates are to be given new powers to ban stores and individuals from selling tobacco for a period of up to one year if they are found to have sold tobacco to an underage person three times in a two-year period.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the British Retail Consortium have been lobbying hard for amendments to be made to this proposal, including reducing the time period during which the three offences can be made from two years to three months.
ACS public affairs manager Shane Brennan said: "In a three-month time period, if an offence takes place and a manager is duly notified, then the manager will take every step necessary to prevent it from happening again. If a manager fails to prevent three offences in three months then there is a serious problem in the business. Over two years there is more likelihood of mistakes being made that do not warrant a ban."
He added that a store which failed one test purchase two years ago, one six months later and which has since failed only once, should not be labelled a "persistent" offender.
The ACS is also lobbying for the length of the ban to be amended to a maximum of three months. It believes a one-year ban could put many small stores out of business.
"Industry figures show that, on average, tobacco makes up 22% of turnover. The loss of this turnover will very quickly lead to a threat of bankruptcy," added Brennan.
The ACS is also lobbying for trading standards officials to notify retailers immediately if they have evidence an underage sale has taken place. It said this would allow managers to act quickly and ensure such an incident did not occur again.