North East Lincolnshire surge in underage tobacco sales

cigarette display
Image caption Trading standards officers say sales of tobacco to underage youngsters are a particular problem

A sharp rise in illegal sales of alcohol and tobacco to children has been reported by trading standards officers in North East Lincolnshire.

Council officials said test purchases, in which youngsters are sent into shops, had shown a big increase in underage sales this year.

So far in 2010, 39% of shops had failed the test, compared to 8% in the whole of 2009, officials said.

The drop in 2009 was attributed to a clamp down by the council and police.

Last year's campaign targeted retailers throughout Grimsby and Cleethorpes amid increasing concern about the number of shop staff who were prepared to sell alcohol and cigarettes to youngsters.

In 2005, 40% of test purchases had failed.

Steve Beasant, North East Lincolnshire Council's portfolio holder for community safety, neighbourhoods and customer services, said the problem involved sales of cigarettes in particular.

He said: "It is unacceptable that some retailers believe it is right to sell underage individuals tobacco products, possibly leading to addiction at a young age.

"I urge the public to be alert to any instances where age-restricted products are being sold to youngsters and to report any incidents they witness."

The council said anybody who knew of anyone selling tobacco or alcohol to children should report the matter to trading standards.

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