Derry has been praised for its efforts to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors, as it has conducted the most test purchases and issued the most fines in Northern Ireland. The city has also launched a campaign to raise awareness and educate retailers and customers about the tobacco laws and the health risks of smoking. The campaign is part of the wider strategy to reduce smoking prevalence and promote a smoke-free generation.
Derry has been the most proactive and effective local authority in enforcing the tobacco laws in Northern Ireland, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health. The figures show that Derry conducted 1,038 test purchases in 2022-2023, which accounted for 40% of the total test purchases in the region. A test purchase is a method of checking the compliance of retailers with the tobacco laws, by sending a young person under the age of 18 to attempt to buy tobacco products.
The figures also show that Derry issued 97 fixed penalty notices in 2022-2023, which accounted for 56% of the total fixed penalty notices in the region. A fixed penalty notice is a fine of £250 that can be imposed on a retailer who sells tobacco products to a person under the age of 18. The retailer can also face prosecution and a higher fine of up to £5,000 if they fail to pay the fixed penalty notice or repeat the offence.
The figures indicate that Derry has a high level of compliance with the tobacco laws, as only 9% of the test purchases resulted in a sale, compared to the regional average of 12%. The figures also indicate that Derry has a high level of deterrence and enforcement, as 94% of the fixed penalty notices were paid, compared to the regional average of 86%.
A comprehensive campaign to raise awareness and educate
Derry has also launched a campaign to raise awareness and educate retailers and customers about the tobacco laws and the health risks of smoking. The campaign, which is funded by the Public Health Agency and delivered by the Derry City and Strabane District Council, aims to:
- Inform retailers of their legal obligations and responsibilities, and provide them with training and support to comply with the tobacco laws.
- Inform customers of their legal rights and duties, and encourage them to report any illegal sales of tobacco products to minors.
- Inform the public of the health harms and costs of smoking, and motivate them to quit or reduce smoking, or to seek help from the stop smoking services.
The campaign includes various activities and materials, such as:
- Visiting and inspecting retail premises, and providing them with posters, stickers, and leaflets to display and distribute.
- Sending letters and emails to retailers, and conducting surveys and interviews to assess their knowledge and attitudes.
- Organising workshops and webinars for retailers, and providing them with certificates and awards for their participation and compliance.
- Distributing flyers and brochures to customers, and conducting quizzes and competitions to test their awareness and understanding.
- Creating and sharing videos and podcasts on social media, and engaging with influencers and celebrities to spread the message and inspire action.
A wider strategy to reduce smoking prevalence and promote a smoke-free generation
The campaign is part of the wider strategy to reduce smoking prevalence and promote a smoke-free generation in Derry and Northern Ireland. The strategy, which is aligned with the UK government’s Tobacco Control Plan and the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, aims to:
- Reduce the smoking prevalence among adults from 15% in 2020 to 12% by 2025, and to 5% by 2030.
- Reduce the smoking prevalence among children and young people from 6% in 2020 to 3% by 2025, and to 0% by 2030.
- Reduce the inequalities in smoking prevalence and outcomes among different groups and areas, such as low-income, ethnic minority, and rural communities.
- Reduce the exposure to second-hand smoke and the environmental impact of tobacco waste and litter.
The strategy includes various measures and interventions, such as:
- Increasing the price and tax of tobacco products, and restricting their availability and accessibility.
- Banning the advertising and promotion of tobacco products, and introducing plain packaging and graphic health warnings.
- Banning smoking in public places and workplaces, and extending the smoke-free legislation to include outdoor areas and vehicles.
- Providing and expanding the stop smoking services, and offering free nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural support.
- Supporting and funding the research and innovation on tobacco control, and monitoring and evaluating the progress and impact of the strategy.
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