ANTI-SMOKING campaigners have welcomed new laws stopping the sale of cigarettes from vending machines.
Since Saturday, it is now against the law to sell tobacco products from the machines.
It is also illegal to advertise tobacco products on vending machines.
Fresh, the North East’s regional programme for tobacco control, thinks that the legislation will help stop children getting their hands on cigarettes in pubs, bowling alleys and arcades.
A North East Trading Standards Association investigation in Sunderland in 2008/9 saw a 15-year-old able to buy cigarettes from a vending machine nine times out of 10.
Nationally, statistics show 56 per cent of child volunteers have been able to buy cigarettes from vending machines.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “This is a move we very much welcome.
“Vending machines are not the only source for young people to buy cigarettes easily, but they are a significant one.
“Vending machines may be expensive, but trading standards teams in the North East have found that children as young as 11 are able to buy cigarettes from vending machines with ease.
“Surveys among young children have also revealed that 17 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds who smoke regularly say vending machines are their usual source of cigarettes.
“With the average age of starting smoking in the North East being 15 years old, this new legislation is a step towards helping to reduce the availability of cigarettes to underage smokers.”
Those found guilty of selling tobacco from a vending machine will be liable for a fine of £2,500 and managers of the premises will be liable if anyone is caught using them to get cigarettes.
Nonnie Crawford, director of public health for Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, said: “Helping to prevent young people from starting smoking in the first place is key to their long- term health as most smokers start during childhood or in their teens and it’s an addiction that kills one in two long term smokers.”