By Caroline Spilt
Just imagine. You are not yet 18 years old, but you are a smoker. How big is the chance you can buy a pack of cigarettes over the counter?
In 2018, Paul Blokhuis, the Dutch junior minister for Health, Welfare and Sport, told the House of Representatives that he was satisfied with the retailers’ compliance with the age limit for buying cigarettes. According to Mr Blokhuis, more and more retailers were asking young buyers for their IDs. Blokhuis based this on research by the CBL, the Dutch branch organisation for supermarkets. Their research claimed that seventy per cent of Dutch supermarkets did not sell cigarettes to minors.
That is correct, according to an independent research with ‘mystery shoppers’ of around 18 years of age by the University of Twente, commissioned by The Investigative Desk. But other tobacco sales points, such as tobacconists, restaurants, cafés and filling stations, perform much worse. When these are included, one out of two minors succeed in buying cigarettes. The mystery shoppers attempted to buy cigarettes 200 times in different places. On average, 51 per cent of their efforts were successful.
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