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Traders tested in cigs law probe by student hacks

Journalism students from the Journalism Centre in Harlow College have successfully conducted an investigation into the change in the law concerning the sale of tobacco.

The change, which came into force on October 1, made it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

The legislation is to protect children and young people from becoming addicted to tobacco and to prevent them from developing serious smoking-related health problems.

James Sharp, a student on the BA (Hons) degree, said: “We thought this investigation was relevant because it was an issue we felt strongly about and we wanted to see if the new laws were being abided by.”

The probe, carried out by a group of five investigative journalism students, found eight out of 20 shops tested sold cigarettes to 16-year-olds without requesting ID. These included major chains such as ASDA, Tesco, WH Smith and the Thresher off licence chain.

Paula Dady, head of journalism at the college, said: “The students used their initiative, as well as determination, hard work and drive to come up with a project idea and carry it through with spectacular results.

“They worked with true professionalism and a passion to uncover the truth. These students will go on, I am sure, to be the kind of journalists the modern industry really needs.”

Amanda Sandford, a representative of ASH – Action on Smoking and Health charity, was astonished by the findings.

She said “What the students found was quite disturbing.

“Retailers should know the law and should refuse sale. There is no excuse. It is a serious offence in aiding and abetting a substance which encourages a young person to continue in a habit which is highly addictive and dangerous.

“We think it is important that regular checks are carried out. I think the law is too lax and is rarely applied.”