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Shopkeepers who stock butane cigarette lighter gas refills have been warned - sell them to children and you could end up in jail. The get-tough crackdown comes days after a Croydon retailer became the first in the borough to be formally cautioned for selling the potentially deadly gas to a minor.

Trading Standards officers swooped after an under-aged test purchaser was illegally sold a butane gas refill.

Solvent abuse is on the rise in Croydon with more and more youngsters using butane for a quick, but potentially fatal hit.

Recent statistics reported in the Guardian revealed one in five of Croydon's schoolchildren has used substances like butane to the point of intoxication. They also showed a quarter of 12 and 13 year olds had experimented with solvents - a far higher proportion than in a similar study two years ago.

In October last year the law was strengthened to make it an offence to sell butane refills to anyone under 18. "It is almost a year now since the new higher age restriction was introduced on the sale of lighter refills and local shopkeepers should heed this warning and make sure all staff are aware of the butane age limit," said Croydon's cabinet member for public health and protection, Councillor Maggie Mansell.

"Make no mistake, this stuff can kill.

"Those shopkeepers who are found to be failing in this responsibility run the risk of prosecution and face maximum penalties of six months imprisonment and or a fine of up to £2,000."



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