Underage Sales of Cigarettes (Prosecutions)

Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 14 June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat 2:15, 14 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive how many retailers were prosecuted in 2006-07 for selling cigarettes to people under the age of 16. (S3O-201)

The Solicitor General for Scotland (Frank Mulholland):

In 2006-07, 11 people were subject to court proceedings. Prosecution is, of course, the ultimate sanction in respect of illegal sales of tobacco, but it is not in itself a measure of the effectiveness of local authority enforcement programmes.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I thank the Solicitor General for Scotland for his response and I welcome his appointment to that high office. I also welcome him to his first themed question time.

Surveys conducted by people who are interested in the prevention of ill health indicate that 19 per cent of 15-year-olds and 6 per cent of 13-year-olds smoke at least one cigarette per week, and that smoking among girls is more prevalent than it is among boys. Given our failure to enforce the current legal age for purchasing cigarettes, and in light of the number of prosecutions that the Solicitor General has revealed and the number of underage smokers, does the Solicitor General agree that enforcement is probably more important than raising the legal age at which a person can buy cigarettes?

The Solicitor General for Scotland:

I am grateful to Mr Finnie for his kind words of welcome.

Prosecution is the ultimate sanction, of course, but it is part of a range of measures to deal with the mischief of smoking among Scotland's youth, which include enforcement by trading standards officers, the production of guidance material, visits and inspections, publicity following test purchases, intelligence-led targeting of premises, and the use of proof-of-age cards, which allows retailers to operate a no-proof, no-sale policy.

It is interesting that an evaluation of a similar test-purchase scheme on the sale of alcohol to underage persons in Fife revealed that, in respect of repeat test purchases, retailers requested proof of age in 97 per cent of cases. I agree that prosecution is important, but it is part of a range of measures. Procurators fiscal are well aware of the importance of their role in ensuring that there is a range of effective measures to deal with youth smoking.