The bargain basement where schoolkids are sold vapes without ID

J&C Bargain Store in Leyland
J&C Bargain Store in Leyland -Credit:LancsLive

It's school kicking out time in Leyland and the Seven Stars area is bustling.

Parents push prams as kids on scooters weave in and out of pedestrtians on the pavement. Buses and cars navigate the busy junction as teenagers swing their schoolbags and remove their blazers, another busy week behind them.

Nestled among it all is J&C Bargain store. This cash-only Aladdin's cave sells everything from bedding to stationery, tools to gift wrap, all of it at rock-bottom prices. On display below the front counter is a selection of bongs, and behind the counter is a rack of e-cigs, of every colour and flavour imaginable.

In bold black and white, a sign reads: IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18.


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But this week, owner Azeem Patel was handed a suspended prison sentence for doing just that - and not for the first time. On October 25, 2023, a 16-year-old girl visited the store and asked to buy a crystal vape. She told shop assistant Ian Whittle she could not get served in the Spar shop next door as she did not have ID on her. Whittle sold it to her anyway.

Illegal vapes were found hidden in a bin
Illegal vapes were found hidden in a bin -Credit:Trading Standards

Unknown to the shop assistant, the girl was working for Lancashire Trading Standards and was wearing a hidden camera. The evidence was used to bring about a fourth conviction for Patel in connection with the sale of vapes at the Leyland Lane store.

On November 15, 2023, Trading Standards officers carried out an inspection at J&Cs. In a swing bin on a display shelf, officers found 64 disposable vapes, each containing more than the permitted 2mg of nicotine.

Patel and Whittle had plenty of warning. In February 2022, Patel was convicted of selling a vape to a 14-year-old girl. In August the same year, he was convicted again - although it was Whittle who had made the sale. Patel is also convicted of selling illegal vapes on three separate occasions between 2016 and 2023.

Sam Hinds, mitigating for Azeem Patel, told Preston Magistrates Court that although the underage sale took place at the hands of an employee (Ian Whittle), his client accepted that he is responsible for sales at the shop. He has since improved his procedures and has now put formal weekly training in place, he said.

He has also changed his suppliers to ensure that goods coming into the shop are compliant. He said that the vapes found in the inspection were old stock, but accepted that he should have disposed of them sooner.

District Judge Thompson said: "This is the fourth time you've come before the court. I'm quite satisfied that you knew the law and chose to ignore it."

Some of the illegal vapes siezed from J&C Bargain Store
Some of the illegal vapes siezed from J&C Bargain Store -Credit:Trading Standards

He sentenced Patel to two months suspended for two years and imposed a £750 fine and £663 costs. Whittle was fined £207 with £164 costs.

A Lancashire Police spokesperson said they had carried out a number of test purchases of vapes and alcohol in a joint operation with Trading Standards. They said: “We are committed to making communities feel safer and better places to live and work and we will always work closely with the community to ensure we achieve this and to tackle this activity which can often lead to anti-social behaviour in neighbouring areas.

“Without information from the public, we would be unable to carry out this sort of proactive work which helps to prevent and detect crime, ensuring the safeguarding and protection of our community”.

The vapes were hidden under cardboard
The vapes were hidden under cardboard -Credit:Trading Standards

A Lancashire County Council spokesperson said: "Trading Standards and Police undertook vital community work by seizing illegal goods from Leyland shops.

"The sale of cheap illicit tobacco and illegal vapes to children encourages addiction, and can be a gateway to other illegal substances, while the sale of illegal products has a financial impact on both legitimate businesses, and on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

"If you know of businesses selling illegal goods, please send any information to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 2231133."