Published August 04, 2017 10.48am
A businessman who sold an e-cigarette to a 16-year-old boy has been ordered to pay more than £600 in fines and court costs.
Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe heard that James Anthony Beeston first came to our attention at the beginning of December 2016, when a trading standards officer and PCSO walked past The Vapour Shop in Front Street, Chester-le-Street. The officers saw a number of children wearing school uniform inside the premises. One of the children appeared to be using an electronic cigarette.
When approached, Beeston said that the shop had not been open long and that the children had gone in to get warm.
The 33-year-old was given advice about the sale of age-related products and was told to ask customers for proof of age.
However, just two weeks later Durham Constabulary received a complaint from the parents of a 12-year-old boy who had purchased an electronic cigarette from the same shop.
One of the parents had visited the premises and spoken with Beeston but he became threatening.
As a result of the complaint, in February of this year, our trading standards team sent a 16-year-old volunteer to the shop as part of a test purchase operation.
Beeston, of Grange Road, Carrville, sold the youngster an e-cigarette and refill fluid without asking for any proof of age. He later told a trading standards officer that he had asked the teenager's age.
Beeston did not attend court and pleaded guilty by post. In a letter to the magistrates, he asked for his apologies to be conveyed to all those involved. He said he had made an error of judgement, which he regretted.
He was fined £200 and ordered to pay £409.54 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.
Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council's consumer protection manager, said: "It is extremely important that anyone selling electronic cigarettes and other such items requests proof of age from younger customers as most vaping products contain nicotine and it is, therefore, illegal to sell them to children under the age of 18.
"We do carry out regular test purchases on such businesses and will take legal action against anyone we believe is flouting the law."