Following a series of news stories criticising convenience stores for selling products associated with drug consumption, a trading standards expert has clarified that retailers are within their rights to sell the products in question.

A Mail on Sunday investigation reported the “shocking” discovery that pipes, bongs and grinders – accessories frequently used in the consumption of cannabis – are “on open sale in high-street shops across the UK”. 

The BBC and several regional newspapers have run similar stories in recent months.

But Tony Allen, a chartered trading standards practitioner and specialist in restricted-sales law, told RN that the retailers criticised in the Mail on Sunday story had done nothing wrong.

“No restrictions on the sale of this kind of paraphernalia, including bongs, grinders and pipes, exist whatsoever,” said Allen, who runs the Age Check Certification Service (ACCS).

Retailer David Worsfold said he saw no moral issue with selling such products. But he added that, in some cases, they can do more harm than good to businesses.

“We’re not moral guardians – there’s the church and government for that,” he said. “But it could cost you more than it gains. For example, I used to stock adult magazines, but gave them up because they caused so many problems.

“I got complaints and they brought in the kind of customer who would try to nick them.”

While there are no legal issues with selling smoking paraphernalia, Allen warns that other products could lead retailers into legal difficulties.

“Another product that has received media attention for its sale in convenience stores is nitrous oxide,” he told RN.

“Unlike cannabis paraphernalia, there are legal restrictions involved with its sale; under the Psychoactive Substances Act, it is illegal to sell nitrous oxide if you suspect it will be used to cause harm. 

“We would therefore advise against selling this product if there are any suspicions whatsoever.”

More recent news: Retailers still missing vital track and trace info