Retailers in the east of England have given a mixed response to the roll-out of a programme that involves mystery shoppers putting underage tobacco sales to the test in more than 400 shops.

During the next three months, 18-19-year-olds will test the ‘No ID, No Sale’ policy, which retailers should adopt when dealing with purchasers who are only just of legal age to buy tobacco.

The scheme, jointly funded by tobacco manufacturers JTI, Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, was piloted in the north west last year, where the proportion of retailers identified as at risk of non-compliance fell from 52% to 45%.

Mike Rivers, of Dersingham News, Dersingham, said: “If you want to stop underage people buying cigarettes then money should go into educating young people not to smoke. Most newsagents want to be responsible, but it is inevitable that you will make a mistake.”

Meanwhile, Nigel Kendal of Meadow Stores, King’s Lynn, said: “At the end of the day we all have to abide by the law. It doesn’t bother me to have test purchasers in at all.”