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School’s out reminder to shops

Shopkeepers are being urged to stay vigilant this summer to keep schoolchildren safe from alcohol harm.

Trading Standards Services in 19 local authorities from across the North West have been visiting shops as schools break up for summer.  Officers have been undertaking advice visits and test purchases.

The exercise is designed to remind traders that under-age drinking can cause serious health and social problems and to ask them to be particularly vigilant during the school holidays. It is illegal for retailers to sell alcohol to under-18s and persistent offenders are liable to a maximum fine of £20,000. Buying alcohol on behalf of under 18s can also result in a fixed penalty notice of £90.

Officers act on information from the public and police about suspected illegal sales or in areas where there are alcohol problem hot spots.  23 shops of the 113 where test purchases were made using under age teenagers sold alcohol illegally and those traders could now face action.

Kate Pike, Co-ordinator of Trading Standards North West, said: “Shops are on the front line when it comes to protecting young people from the risks of underage drinking.

“We’re working with them in this ‘school’s out’ exercise to remind them to stay alert over the holidays and make sure they and their staff are familiar with the law and with schemes such as Challenge 25.

“Traders should always ask young people for age identification if in doubt and should refuse to serve and report adults to their local trading standards team or the police if they suspect they are buying alcohol to give to underage children.

“We have been running a number of test purchase exercises and were pleased to find that the vast majority of shopkeepers were not selling alcohol illegally. Sadly a number were and officers will now consider what action to take.

“In our last regional survey we saw a good decline in the number of young people who are drinking and abusing alcohol but we need to keep our guard up. Drinking too much can cause serious health problems and put young people at risk of becoming victims of crime or losing control with sometimes devastating consequences.”

The local authorities taking part in the ‘school’s out’ operation are: Blackpool, Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Cheshire East, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, St Helens, Salford, Sefton, Tameside, Trafford, Warrington, Wigan and Wirral.

Results from the NW Trading Standards 2015 survey:

Nearly half of young people who completed the survey (46%) say they have never drunk alcohol up 14% since the last survey in 2013.

The percentage of young people claiming to drink alcohol at least once a week has fallen from 17% to 12% in the last two years, and the average number of units of alcohol they consume per week has fallen from 17 to 12. That’s well below the guidelines on how many units per week adults should consume.

The percentage of young people who say they drink just to get drunk is down to 26% from 55% in 2007 and those who say they drink because there is nothing else to do has more than halved (11% in 2015 compared to 28% in 2007.)

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