AN UNDERCOVER test survey by a trading standards team found 16 out of 47 retailers in North Yorkshire sold cigarettes to a 15-year-old.

The inspection team carry out regular test purchasing in the county to ensure businesses are not selling cigarettes to under-18s. But a recent summer survey involving using volunteer child helpers revealed the 15-year-olds were able to buy cigarettes from 34 per cent of retailers.

The volunteers who help North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards team have strict rules to follow and are instructed to tell the truth at all times, as well as provide identification showing their true age if requested.

The North Yorkshire Tobacco Control Strategy 2015-2025 aims to achieve a “smoke-free generation”. One of its key priorities is to prevent children and young people having access to tobacco.

Councillor Andrew Lee, the council’s executive member for growth, planning and trading standards, said: “This is a reminder of the significant role that local businesses and retailers play in protecting our children’s health by preventing them from accessing all forms of tobacco and nicotine.

“Cigarettes are age-restricted to protect the health of our young people and retailers are urged to be aware of the implications of underage sales.’’

North Yorkshire County Council said it is a criminal offence is committed if age-restricted products are sold to minors.

Trading Standards is inviting retailers to work with them to achieve a new Responsible Retailer award, which recognises those who follow under age sales legislation.

Officers will work with participating outlets to introduce an effective age verification policy and to help to train staff.

For more information on the Responsible Retailer scheme, call David Miller on 01609-534810.