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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 14:41 GMT
Children used in solvents fight
Solvent cans
The scheme will assess the scale of the problem
A local authority is to send children into shops armed with hidden cameras in an effort to curb solvent abuse.

The pilot scheme by Fife Council will target shops selling solvents to people under the age of 18.

Campaigner John O'Brien lost his 16-year-old son Lee to solvent abuse.

He wants to stop the death of teenagers and children from a product that should not be sold to anyone under 18.

"The council have the right to send in children as decoys with hidden cameras on them," he said.

"They'll ask for lighter fuel and if they are sold to them the council will take preventative measures."

He was buzzing this gas, lighter fuel, and it killed him instantly
John O'Brien
However, the authority will not be pursuing prosecutions as part of the test purchasing pilot scheme - information gathered by the 50 child volunteers will be used to assess the scale of the problem.

Mr O'Brien did not know his son Lee had been using solvents until he discovered his body.

"I discovered my son dead in the kitchen on the floor," he said.

"He was my only son and lying next to him was a tin of lighter fuel.

Lighter fuel

"He was buzzing this gas, lighter fuel, and it killed him instantly."

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry has also provided his backing for the campaign.

"I have met the O'Briens and I have pledged to respond positively to their campaign to raise the profile of volatile substance abuse and to ensure that young people are aware of how dangerous inhalation of these substances can be," he said.

"Honest retailers have nothing to fear from this scheme and I look forward to seeing the results."

Solvent abuse poster
"Honest retailers have nothing to fear"

Martin Meteyard, of Scottish Co-op, said all retailers should have tight regulations.

He said: "We do have an advantage of being a chain and having access to technology.

"But there is no reason why any retailer who is concerned about this issue can't exercise proper vigilance, can't question the age of someone coming to the till to buy one of these products and refuse to sell to them if there is any doubt involved."

The test purchasing scheme has run in England for eight years.



Alan Grant reports
"The scheme will involve youngsters with hidden cameras"

Calls to tighten solvent rules
28 Nov 02 |  Scotland
Anger over lighter fuel sentence
18 Apr 02 |  Scotland

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