Bicester business director prosecuted for selling illegal e-cigarette to a child

The director of a convenience store in Bicester has been ordered to pay over £2,500 for selling a disposable e-cigarette to a child, following an investigation carried out by Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards service.

Mr Nevilkumar Mody, 35, a director of Haridisharn Ltd, trading as Bicester Local and Post Office in Sheep Street, Bicester, pleaded guilty and was convicted of a single offence at Oxford Magistrates Court on Monday 25 September 2023.

He was fined £400 and made to pay £160 in victim surcharge. Full costs of £2,037 were awarded to Oxfordshire County Council, which brought the prosecution.

The business sold the peach ice flavour disposable e-cigarette, sometimes known as a puff bar or vape pen, to a 15 year old test purchaser in January 2023, despite the legal age limit for the sale of e-cigarettes being 18 and over.

As well as being a director of the company and being responsible for training the shop’s staff on legal compliance with age restricted products, Mr Mody actually made the sale, himself and did not ask the test purchaser anything about their age or ask for any identification which would have shown their age.

The shop was one of several visited as part of a test purchasing operation based on information from complaints by local residents, a local councillor and the local policing team.

Councillor Kate Gregory, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and Safety, said: “E-cigarettes are one of the most effective methods of supporting someone to quit smoking. However, while e-cigarettes pose only a small fraction of the risk of traditional cigarettes, they are not risk-free products and we do not encourage young people who have never smoked before to begin using them.

“The trading standards teams will continue to make test purchases of this kind, to ensure that adequate precautions are being taken by retailers to prevent the sale of such products to children.”

Jody Kerman, Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Trading Standards, said: “Many Oxfordshire retailers work very hard to train their staff and implement systems to prevent the sale of such items to children. The rising popularity of disposable e-cigarettes amongst teenagers makes appropriate age verification checks absolutely essential.

“Those who don’t follow the rules not only put children at risk but also gain an unfair advantage over their competitors. We will continue to respond to community concerns in this area, prioritising the health and wellbeing of residents and helping to create a level playing field for businesses to operate within.”

Further information for retailers on how to sell e-cigarettes responsibly, including details and photos of illegal products to avoid, can be found on Oxfordshire County Council’s website.

Anyone with information about the sale of illegal, disposable e-cigarettes or underage sales can report to trading standards via the national consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

More information

The sale of any kind of e-cigarette (disposable or not) to a person under the age of 18 is prohibited under Regulation 3 of The Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 and an offence under section 92 (1) of The Children and Families Act 2014.

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