Sir; As MPs consider an amendment to allow the government to increase the legal age for buying tobacco to 18, we are concerned that retailers and shop staff could face abuse if they have to police an increase in the smoking age.
The government has tabled an amendment allowing the secretary of state for health to increase through regulation the legal age for buying tobacco.
We have no issue at all with the principle of increasing the age for buying tobacco to 18. Our concerns are solely about the implementation of such a change, because it would be our members who would have to police it at the sharp end.
Our members would be faced with a situation where a 17-year-old who has legally bought tobacco for a year would have to be prevented from doing so by a retailer. Customers faced with this situation will not take out their frustrations on the government but on the individual trying to uphold the law by refusing to serve them.
We know that already the single most common cause of abuse and intimidation for shop staff is the refusal to sell an age-restricted product, and the changeover to a higher legal purchasing age would only exacerbate this serious problem.
One solution to this situation would be if the government delays the introduction of this legislation by a year, ensuring that the customers in the transitional age bracket are unaffected and giving a clear warning to pre-16 children.