Assistant sold cigs to girl, 15

A SHOP worker was fined after selling cigarettes to a 15-year-old in a sting operation.

Trading standards officers from Hartlepool Borough Council are warning traders and shop workers to observe the law when selling cigarettes and tobacco.

It comes after shop assistant Natalie Saunders, 25, was fined at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court for selling cigarettes to the girl.

Saunders, of Hereford Street, Hartlepool, failed to turn up at court, but was fined £350 and ordered to pay costs of £461 and a £15 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to selling a packet of 10 Lambert and Butler cigarettes at Belle Vue Wines, in the town’s Sydenham Road, in August last year.

The prosecution followed an underage sales operation carried out by the council’s Trading Standards Team as part of a crackdown to try and stop the sale of cigarettes to children.

The 15-year-old volunteer was served by Saunders without being asked for identification or proof of age.

The shop owner pleaded guilty at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court last month and was fined £300 and ordered to pay £366 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Rachael Byron, of the council’s Trading Standards Team, said: “The sale of cigarettes to children is an issue that we take very seriously. This latest case highlights that shop assistants can face severe financial penalties if they do not act responsibly when supplying age-restricted products.

“We always use volunteers who are clearly under 18-years-old and, as such, retailers should be asking them to prove their age. This case demonstrates that despite numerous reminders not all traders and shop workers are being vigilant.

“We will continue to provide advice and support to traders and shop workers, but they must also take responsibility themselves. Tobacco is harmful and we have a responsibly to do everything possible to prevent illegal sales.”

Anyone with information relating to shops allegedly selling cigarettes or any other age-restricted products to children can contact the Trading Standards Team on (01429) 523362.