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Purpose - There is a discrepancy between the ease of purchase of cigarettes reported by young people themselves and the results of ease of purchase obtained by tests done by official sources such as Trading Standards Units. This discrepancy suggests that either data from young people or from trading standards are unreliable. This research set out to find out whether young peoples' perceptions of easy purchasing from shops were true. Design/methodology/approach - Six volunteer young people visited shops around the West Midlands region and attempted to buy cigarettes. They conducted the attempt in as realistic fashion as possible. All volunteers were assessed independently as looking under 16. Shopkeeper, shop, area and youth attributes were recorded Findings - Young people were able to make purchases in 31 out of 38 shops. The young people were very surprised by their rates of successful purchase attempts across such a large geographical area. Practical implications - Shopkeepers and communities need to be given more help to recognise underage youth purchasers in order to reduce this important source of tobacco to young people. Trading standards protocols for test purchases need to be revised to reflect the reality of ease of purchasing for young people. Originality/value - This research confirms that young people who say that it is possible to buy cigarettes from shops appear to generally be correct in their perceptions. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Education

Publication Date





103 - 108