A WIDNES shop has been prosecuted by the courts after being caught selling vapes to a 15-year-old child.

Newsrack Widnes and Yasin Hafeji, of Albert Road in Widnes, were recently convicted in their absence at Warrington Magistrates’ Court.

Hafeji sold a grapefruit flavoured Elf Bar to the 15-year-old from the Newsrack store on Albert Road in October last year

The child was in fact a volunteer who was working with Halton Borough Council’s (HBC) trading standards team and Cheshire Police as part of a test buy operation.

The company and the seller were prosecuted for the sale in their absence after failing to attend court, and each were ordered to pay £1,069.85.

Trading standards officers work with retailers to ensure they understand the law around age-restricted products to reduce access among children.

In this case, intelligence was received that children were able to buy vapes from the premises.

It was visited on two occasions by trading standards to provide advice and guidance on the law to try and ensure compliance, yet the shop did not heed that advice.

A trading standards spokesman said: “We take the sale of all age-restricted products to young people in the borough seriously, and the rise in the number of young people vaping remains a significant concern.

“We continue to work with retailers to ensure they are aware of their legal obligations, while investigating complaints, including carrying out our work with test buy volunteers to ensure these products are kept out of the hands of our young people, to protect them from harming their health.

“We will take swift enforcement action against those retailers who continue to sell to under 18s. The sale of age-restricted products to young people under the age of 18 is a criminal offence.”

The most recent trading standards north west youth survey showed an increase in the numbers of young people vaping, with 14 per cent claiming to vape more than once a week, compared to six per cent in 2020.

Cllr Martha Lloyd Jones, HBC’s portfolio holder for consumer protection and trading standards, said: “We have a duty to protect the residents of Halton, and to try and prevent the access of age-restricted products such as vapes to our young residents.

“This case sends out a clear message that the council will take robust action where retailers break the law, and the sale of vapes to our young residents will not be tolerated.

“It should not be forgotten that as well as a financial penalty, this individual will have to deal with the stigma and impact of a criminal record for many years to come.”

Halton’s director of Public Health, Dr Ifeoma Onyia, stressed that the negative impact vaping has on the health and wellbeing children and young people is of great concern.

She said: “Although we do know that vaping has been used successfully to help adults stop smoking, we still do not fully understand all the long-term harms of vaping on young and developing lungs.

“It is about the balance of harms, and quite simply, smoking kills. The last thing we want to see is young people using vapes and perhaps progressing from this to smoking.

“The sale of underage vapes is a real concern. This activity needs to stop, so that our young people can grow up to live longer and healthier lives, protected from harm.”

If you have any information involving the sale of age-restricted products to children within Halton, report it anonymously by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Retailers who want further advice and assistance can visit businesscompanion.info for free and impartial legal advice.