Tobacco ban for shopkeeper after underage sales

AN ABERDEEN shopkeeper has become the first in Scotland to be banned from selling tobacco after repeatedly selling cigarettes to underage children.

Shriraj Gindha sold cigarettes to 16-year-olds on three separate occasions - the legal age is 18. File picture: Ian Rutherford

Shriraj Gindha, who runs Tony’s Newsagent in Victoria Road, Torry, was banned from selling tobacco products following an investigation by Aberdeen City Council trading standards officers.

He was found to have sold cigarettes to 16-year-old test purchasers at his store on three separate occasions between October 2011 and August 2013. The legal age for buying cigarettes in Scotland was raised from 16 to 18 in 2007.

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Aberdeen Sheriff Court granted the banning order yesterday. And a city council spokesman said: “The City Council applied for a tobacco retail banning order against Shriraj Gindha, trading as Tony’s Newsagent, Victoria Road, Torry, after he was caught selling tobacco products to under age customers on numerous occasions.

“It is the first such order granted against a registered tobacco retailer in Scotland and will be in place for twelve months. Despite repeated warnings and advisory visits from Aberdeen City Council’s Trading Standards team, Mr Gindha continued to sell tobacco products to underage customers.

“The shop sold packets of cigarettes to 16-year-old test purchasing volunteers on three separate occasions between October 2011 and August 2013. This was in addition to another illegal sale in August 2011, for which the shop owner was issued a warning letter by Council Trading Standards officers.”

Graeme Paton, the leader of Aberdeen City Council’s Trading Standards team, said: “Despite numerous advisory visits, repeated warnings and fixed penalty notices, Mr Gindha continued to sell cigarettes to our 16-year-old test purchasing volunteers, never asking for proof of age or their date of birth.

“In light of repeated offending, we had little option but to seek an order from the court banning him from selling tobacco products. This was an extreme case and the majority of tobacco retailers in the city comply with the law. Those who do fail a test purchase visit rarely do so a second time.”

He continued: “While we are pleased with the outcome of this case, we prefer to work with tobacco retailers to prevent illegal sales rather than take matters to court. I am pleased to say that almost all retailers in Aberdeen are receptive to this approach.”

Mr Paton added: “Legitimate retailers comply with the law and are registered to sell tobacco with the Scottish Government. They are responsible and do all they can to avoid selling cigarettes to anyone under age.”

Sheila Duffy, the chief executive of anti-smoking charity Ash Scotland, welcomed the ban. She said: “We are strongly in favour of the use of tobacco sales banning orders for offenders who persistently flout the law.”

She continued: “Half of underage smokers say they buy cigarettes from shops. Around 40 young people take up smoking every day in Scotland, which is why the nation is committed to putting tobacco use out of fashion for the next generation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While it would not be appropriate to comment on an individual case, the Scottish Government supports measures aimed at preventing illicit sales of tobacco.”

Under the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010, all tobacco retailers are required to be registered with the Scottish Government. A local authority can apply to have a retailer banned from selling tobacco products where they breach the 2010 Act three times within a two year period.