ALMOST three quarters of test purchases for age-restricted products in County Durham result in a failure by retailers to ask for identification.

Durham County Council, Durham Police and the County Durham Tobacco Alliance, have seized 130,340 cigarettes, 71.15kg of hand rolled tobacco and £14,600 in cash since March 1, 2016.

In that time, 100 test purchases were made for products including alcohol, tobacco, DVDs, fireworks, and spray paints, with 69 resulting in a failure for the retailer as they neglected to ask for the appropriate age identification.

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Alcohol test purchases made up two thirds of the test purchases and one third of the failures, which result in a fixed penalty notice and requirement to do training.

In 2016/17 reviews were carried out into three premises, resulting in the surrendering of one licence and two other premises having conditions attached to their licence.

Councillor Brian Stephens, cabinet member for Neighbourhoods and Local Partnerships, said: “I’m glad to see such decisive action being taken against rogue traders, and I welcome the great strides we’ve made in tackling this menace over the last year.”

“Retailers have a responsibility to their communities to help combat underage drinking and tobacco addictions, and we want those who fall foul of the law to know that we take our obligations to protect our young people very seriously.

“Conversely, I’d like to applaud those retailers in County Durham who stick to the law and act as responsible traders.”

A report written for the council’s cabinet says the high failure rate is a result of its intelligence-led enforcement programme.