Researchers in the School of Health Sciences have found that banning under-18s from buying cigarettes has had little impact on young people’s access to tobacco and large numbers buy cigarettes via strangers.
In collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, the study found a widespread acceptance of underage sales in some communities and significant numbers of young people waiting outside shops and asking strangers to buy cigarettes for them.
Dr Jude Robinson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Health Sciences, said: “The most striking finding has been the reported importance of proxy sales, compared to previous studies which have indicated that young people tend to get their cigarettes via family and friends.”
Researchers recruited 85 young people from secondary schools and youth groups in Birmingham, half of whom were smokers, and used focus groups to provide insights into shared cultural norms around smoking and access tobacco.
Most did not try to buy from supermarkets but would buy from smaller, local shops where they would be less likely to be asked for identification. A number of participants said they did not try to buy directly from shops as they believed they would be unsuccessful but general waited outside to ask people to buy cigarettes for them.
Dr Robinson continued: “Many saw proxy purchasing as a rational approach which was socially sanctioned and accepted by many other smokers, particularly young adults. As hanging out with friends is a major pass-time, this is easily fitted into their social activities and indeed for some, provides a focus for their activities.”