SHOP owners in Essex will be punished if they sell solvents to people under the age of 18, trading standards officers have warned.
It follows random testing during which 10% of shops supplied a youngster with lighter fuel. Throughout February Essex County Council Trading Standards conducted test sales for solvents at 50 stores across the county, using an underage volunteer.
Five stores broke the law by agreeing to sell the test purchaser, a 14-year-old girl.
On each occasion the volunteer, who was supervised throughout the process, attempted to purchase butane lighter refills.
Statistics show that these account for the majority of deaths among people using them for intoxication purposes, due to volatile substance abuse (VSA). A number of shops visited also indicated that they would have made the sale, but were out of stock or unable to locate their supply.
Trading Standards officers re-visited these retailers to advise them on age restricted sales. The stores visited included both smaller independent stores and major retail chains.
Trading Standards officers said they were concerned that some retailers still believe that the legal age for purchasing solvents is 16, rather than 18.
Statistics compiled by St George's University of London show that VSA is responsible for more deaths amongst young people aged 10-16 than “conventional” illegal drugs.
Roger Walters, county council executive member for Trading Standards said: “Solvent abuse is a serious problem, which is why these products should not be made available to young people under the age of 18. “There is simply no excuse for stores to flout the law on this.“We are planning to conduct more test sales for solvents, and any retailers who continue to ignore our warnings can expect to be punished severely.”
taken from Suffold & Essex online