Public in dark about law change says BRC

The British Retail Consortium is urging the government to give more support to retailers ahead of changes to the age restrictions on the sale of cigarettes.

Speaking out on Respect for Shop Workers Day, BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said more communication needs to be made with the public to stop checkouts becoming conflict flashpoints when retailers refuse the sale of cigarettes to 16 and 17-year-olds after the law change on Oct 1.

He said: “Saying ‘no’ can be unpleasant, particularly in the face of intimidation, verbal abuse and even violence. Retailers are keen to contribute to reducing smoking and knife crime among young people, if they can, in the same way that the Challenge 21 initiative has been effective in reducing underage alcohol sales. But retailers will need the support of the police and communities.”

When it announced it was raising the legal smoking age to 18 on Jan 1, the government said it would be running public communication campaigns before Oct 1, but nothing has been released so far this year.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said a campaign would be launched shortly, but could not specify a particular date.

Hawkins said the BRC was in discussion with the government on the best way to educate both the public and shop workers about the law change.

He added: “The government needs to make sure teenagers are aware of the changes and the police need to be alive to the fact that these changes may lead to an increase in the number of conflicts in retail outlets.”