Campaign to stamp out proxy cigarette sales

Adults are being warned not to buy cigarettes for underage children, as part of a hard hitting campaign, that has been unveiled across Lothian.

Posters are on display around the region in a bid to stamp out the problem and warn adults that they could be fined £200 on the spot, face prosecution and gain a criminal record.

Adverts, warning adults that their actions could “cost them a packet”, have been posted on bus shelters across Edinburgh, West Lothian, Midlothian and East Lothian.

The campaign was launched after figures revealed that around half of youngsters in Lothian report someone else buying cigarettes for them.

Colin Lumsdaine, Health Promotion Specialist, NHS Lothian, said: “We know this is a difficult problem in Lothian and one that we needs adults to help us stop.

“Adults often think they are doing children a favour when they buy them cigarettes, but in reality they are setting them up for a deadly habit which is fraught with health complications.

“It is also illegal and they could face real consequences, not just a £200 fine, but a criminal record.”

Laws governing the sale of cigarettes and tobacco were changed in October 2007, making it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy them.

In 2011, it became an offence for under-18s to buy tobacco products, and also for an adult to buy tobacco products for an under-18.

The posters warn adults that it is an offence to buy cigarettes for or on behalf of youngsters.

Youngsters have been heavily involved in the campaign and have helped shape it throughout, giving their opinions and insight.

One youngster Kiera Fitzgarald, from Edinburgh, who is involved with the community project Ripple, said: “Raising awareness of proxy sales is important due to adults not realising the harm they are causing.

"Smoking damages people’s health and if people smoke when young they will most likely continue through their life. If we can stop young people smoking there is a better chance they won’t when older.”

The campaign is being run in conjunction with the four local authorities in Lothian and the adverts urge anyone who sees adults breaking the law to call the Consumer helpline 03454 04 05 06 – calls are confidential

East Lothian Council’s Education and Children’s Wellbeing spokesperson Councillor Shamin Akhtar said: “I would strongly urge any adult thinking of buying cigarettes for someone younger than 18 to think again. Your actions are harmful. You are doing them no favours but encouraging them into a habit that is already seriously harming their health and wellbeing. I would encourage everyone to support this campaign by taking a stand on this issue by saying no.”

A spokesman for the Trading Standards team at Midlothian Council said: “We are aware that some young people under 18 often ask adults to buy cigarettes for them, knowing that it is difficult to purchase cigarettes themselves. It is hoped that this poster campaign will inform youngsters and the public in general that to buy cigarettes for someone under the age of 18 is an offence.

“We also want to remind tobacco retailers that they need to be as vigilant as possible when selling tobacco products and be fully aware that not all adults are buying for themselves.”

Councillor Cammy Day, The City of Edinburgh Council Community Safety Leader, said: "Smoking is one of the biggest causes of premature death in Scotland, and our Council recognises its role in protecting the health and wellbeing of the city’s citizens. We’re working closely with the NHS and of course support this campaign to tackle proxy cigarette sales. This won’t be tolerated and we’ll act upon anyone who breaks this law in the capital. I would obviously encourage anyone who sees adults breaking this law to report it on the consumer helpline.”

West Lothian’s executive councillor for the environment Tom Conn said: “West Lothian Council’s Trading Standards team is pleased to work alongside NHS Lothian to highlight this serious issue.

“Buying cigarettes for children can have serious consequences, and we would discourage any West Lothian resident from doing so.”