Hartlepool shop facing licence review amid claims pupils were sold vapes

A convenience store is to have its licence reviewed amid fears that school children have allegedly bought vapes illegally.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 2:35 pm

Trading standards officers visited Charlie’s Convenience Store, in Hartlepool’s Duke Street, after reports from “concerned parents and schools” that disposable Geek Bar vapes were being sold to children.

A council report stated trading standards officers saw “numerous groups of children coming into the shop and asking to purchase Geek Bars” during the November visit.

According to the licensing review application, one of the girls present, who said she was a school pupil, attempted to purchase a Geek Bar and stated “she regularly bought them there”.

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Charlie's Convenience Store, in Duke Street, Hartlepool.

Bosses at Charlie’s, however, have said they operate a strict Challenge 25 policy, have never sold to under 18s and will defend themselves during the review.

The matter is now likely to be debated at a future council licensing committee meeting.

Sanctions could include the shop’s ability to sell other “age restricted” products such as alcohol.

The council report states an 18-year-old council apprentice test purchased a Geek Bar Pro, which cannot legally be sold in the UK to people of any age, during the visit.

It continues by saying the sale was made “without any checks” on age before senior officers attended the store to seize non-compliant vape bars.

Submitted by Rachael Readman, senior trading standards officer, the report said: “ I believe the current trading practices at Charlie’s are contradicting the licensing objectives of protection of children from harm and the prevention of crime and disorder.

"Trading standards have received reports from the general public, concerned parents and schools regarding Charlie’s selling disposable vape bars, known as Geek Bars, to children.

"Geek bars are nicotine delivery devices, similar to vapes, and are age restricted products – meaning they cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18.”

Her report continues: “Charlie’s are making these products readily available to children.

“As an age restricted product, they should have systems in place to verify a prospective purchaser’s age to ensure children cannot make a purchase.

“The test purchase carried out by trading standards, and the presence of children attempting to purchase products when trading standards were on site, proved that they were not doing so.”

The report continues: “It is trading standards’ contention that selling aged related products to children without verifying the purchaser’s age cast significant doubts on the licence holder’s suitability to to be licensed to sell age restricted products, ie alcohol.”

Yet Abdul Rizwan, the manager at Charlie’s, told the Hartlepool Mail that any Geek Bars young people have got from his store would have been bought for them by adults without the shop’s knowledge.

He said: “We’ve been in the community for a long time, I assured the council we are there to help you.

“We’ve never sold to under 18s. I train my staff Challenge 25, anyone we see that doesn’t look 25, we ask for the proper ID.

He also stressed the shop “were not selling” Geek Bar Pros.