I am in favour of severe penalties for those who knowingly make underage sales, and persistent offenders should lose the right to sell tobacco or alcohol.
While I recognize the need for test purchasing, I find it frustrating that no credit is ever given to those who do not fail. I have traded from three stores for 18 years and assume that I have been tested on numerous occasions, but have never been notified that I have passed a test. If I fail a Trading Standards test, will my record be taken into consideration, or am I condemned for one mistake? It's not the fine I fear, but the slur on my professionalism and standing in the community.
It isn't hard to find those stores that are abusing the laws, as youngsters are quick to boast about where they can get served, and these stores need to be targeted.
But even if every retailer in the nation diligently adheres to the licensing laws, it won't stop youngsters getting access to alcohol as there are always older friends, family members and even parents who would supply them.
I have never heard of any member of the public being prosecuted for supplying alcohol to the underaged and have never been aware of any police activity to combat the problem.
It seems the only way the authorities want to address the problem of underage smoking and drinking is to make the retailer accountable. What about the parents? Why not fine the parent if their child is found drinking? This would soon reduce the hoards of youngsters staggering around our town centres at night.