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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-   10 July 2006

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Raising the legal age for buying tobacco

PROPOSALS to crack down on smoking amongst teenagers were unveiled by public health minister Caroline Flint.  Plans include increasing the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco and imposing tougher sanctions on retailers who persist in selling cigarettes to under-age teens.

About 9% of children aged between 11 and 15 smoke and the Government is determined to reduce this figure further. Raising the legal age to 17 or 18 would make it easier for retailers to spot under-age smokers and lead to a fall in the number of teenagers who get addicted to nicotine and continue to smoke into adulthood.

It is hoped that bringing the legal age for the purchase of tobacco into line with that of alcohol would reinforce the dangers of smoking to young people as well as helping retailers to comply with the law.  It would also bring England and Wales into line with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Evidence shows that nearly 70% of 11 to 15 year old smokers say they buy their cigarettes from small shops such as newsagents and corner shops. This suggests that existing sanctions for retailers who break the law such as advisory visits or written warnings are not stringent enough to act as a deterrent to rogue retailers.

Proposals to toughen up these sanctions include prohibition orders banning repeat offenders from selling tobacco. This would be a major new penalty, particularly for shops who rely on tobacco sales for
much of their turnover.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said:- "Smoking is dangerous at any age, but the younger people start, the more likely they are to become life-long smokers and to die early.  Someone who starts smoking aged 15 is 3 times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their late 20s.  Access to cigarettes by under 16s is not as difficult as it should be and this is partly due to retailers selling tobacco to those under the legal age. If a particular shop is known locally as the place for children and teenagers to easily buy tobacco, we want to stop that shop selling it.  These proposals demonstrate our determination to reduce the number of teenagers from smoking thereby reducing the number of people with preventable diseases and the incidence of health inequalities."

The Government is inviting views from the public, the retail industry, local authorities and stakeholders on these proposals, set out in a consultation paper published this week.

Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute said:- "The Trading Standards Institute strongly supports the proposal to change the age limit on sales of tobacco. The Institute has previously called for such action based upon the growing concerns about the health risks of smoking among children and teenagers.  The Institute also believe that changing the age of sale in line with the age limit on, for example, alcohol sales will help eliminate confusion among retailers.  Across the Country,Trading Standards colleagues already do an enormous amount of work to help educate and inform retailers of their responsibilities to comply with the law across the whole range of age-restricted products. However, in 2004-5, some 117 retailers were still successfully prosecuted for selling cigarettes to children under 16, receiving penalties ranging from a conditional discharge to fines of up to £1,000.

The Trading Standards Institute therefore believe that changing the age of sale for tobacco , combined with the proposal for stronger penalties against the minority of shopkeepers who repeatedly make illegal underage sales, would make it significantly more difficult for young people to purchase cigarettes."

Oldest and youngest awarded Freedom of city

ONE of Liverpool's oldest, and the youngest services are to be granted the city's top honour.  The Merseyside branch of St. John Ambulance, founded in September 1877, and the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment which was formed just days ago on Saturday 1 July 2006, will be honoured by Liverpool City Council at an Extraordinary meeting on Wednesday 12 July 2006.

Following a vote by councillors, the 2 organisations will be officially added to the Freedom Roll of Associations and Institutions of the City of Liverpool. 

Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Joan Lang, said:- "These are 2 extremely valued and well-respected services and I'm delighted that they are receiving this top honour.  It's wonderful that we can recognise the work carried out by the Merseyside branch of St. John Ambulance. They play an integral role in our community - whether it's providing first aid and medical support, or training young people to develop key skills that will benefit them, and others.  Just last Saturday soldiers from the new Duke of Lancaster's Regiment came to the Town Hall to officially report for duty, so it's nice to see a young organisation receive this accolade."

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- "All my colleagues and I at the City Council are delighted to add both groups to the prestigious list of Liverpool organisations, and individuals, which are leaders in their field.  I am immensely proud of the services they give to Merseyside, and indeed this country, and it is fitting that they are added to the Freedom Roll, which is the highest honour the city can bestow on an association or institution."

The Duke of Lancaster's regiment has been formed by amalgamating the King's Own Royal Border Regiment, The King's Regiment and The Queen's Lancashire Regiment.

The King's Regiment was admitted to the Freedom roll on 7 March 1962. This allowed them to "march through the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed."

Brigadier Hamish Rollo, Colonel of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, speaking from Germany where he is visiting the 1st Battalion of the Regiment, said:- "This would be a most generous and important gesture by Liverpool City Council. To be awarded the freedom of a great City is highly significant to a Regiment.  There is no better way of confirming the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment as Liverpool's own Regiment, building on the proud heritage of one of its predecessors, the King's Regiment. It follows Liverpool's fine tradition of outstanding support to the Armed Forces.  All Kingsmen of our four battalions would be delighted with a vote to award the Freedom."

Colonel Martin Amlot is St. John Ambulance's Commissioner of Operations in Merseyside. He said:- "The adult volunteers, the cadets and the Badgers (youngsters between 5-10 years of age), serving and retired members of St John Ambulance in Merseyside will all be thrilled to know that the City of Liverpool has seen fit to honour us in this way.  We enjoy our service to the community as First Aiders, as ambulance crews and as a significant youth organisation in Merseyside. Each activity has its own rewards, but to be recognised by the city like this is an unexpected and absolute pleasure. We thank the city council most warmly and we hope that we can live up to the honour."

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