Three shops in Magherafelt area caught selling cigarettes to kids

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Five shopkeepers in the Mid Ulster District have been caught in a sting organised by the council to expose the illegal selling of cigarettes to children.

The test purchases, carried out by children, caught two shops in Dungannon and three in Magherafelt breaching Children and Young Person Sale of Tobacco regulations.

It is illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 18.

Mid Ulster Council officers ran the checks on 33 shops in the district over the past year.

In addition, they discovered two shops selling butane gas in the form of a gas lighter refill to children.

A total of nine retailers breached the Tobacco Advertising and Promotions (Display) Regulations by displaying cigarettes to a person under 18, six of the breaches occured in Dungannon, and three in Magherafelt.

The council gave the guilty retailers in Dungannon written warnings for the breaches.

Since April 2015 and prior to commencement of test purchasing activity, 167 visits were made to tobacco retailers throughout the Mid Ulster District Council area, providing them with advice on how to comply with the legislation.

The move is in contrast to how some members of Dungannon Council felt about the idea. In February, 2013, councillors opposed the scheme because it “raised issues in relation to child protection”.

The new and tougher sanctions,include on-the-spot fines as well as an increase in the maximum fine applicable for underage sales following prosecution.

Dungannon Ulster Unionist Party Councillor Walter Cuddy, himself a newsagent, is in favour of the idea - but says the problem of retailers being tempted to sell illegal cigarettes also needs to be addressed.