HELENSBURGH’S new police inspector has promised to get tough on any under-age smokers found in the area.

The issue was raised at a meeting of Helensburgh and Lomond Community Planning Group on Thursday, February 7.

It was claimed that the number of those smokers was growing, and Inspector Roddy McNeill said that anybody with concerns was welcome to contact him.

The officer, who recently took over as inspector at the town’s police station, also stated that methods for test purchasing had recently changed.

He said: “It is an offence to be in possession of cigarettes and we report youths who are found with them to the children’s panel.

“We can take cigarettes off them, and some quite vocally say that their parents bought them for them. That leads us to charge the parents.

“At Helensburgh, I have a different way of doing things, like dealing with the smoking issue. I am happy for people to contact me directly if there are any issues.

“We did do a lot of test purchasing but the goalposts have now been moved on that at a national level.

“You have to do a lot of paperwork just to highlight the message that this will not be tolerated.”

The inspector also gave an update to the various community groups who attended the meeting, including on officer numbers.

And he is looking to replicate a successful initiative from his previous post in West Dunbartonshire into Argyll and Bute.

He added: “Resources are good now – police numbers are what you would expect to have. Other areas are difficult to recruit for, but they are well-managed and are great spaces to work in.

“We have just started a programme for youth volunteers in Helensburgh. We previously had such a scheme in Dumbarton and Clydebank.

“Twenty-four have signed up for it and 21 turned up on the first night on Wednesday, February 6. We also had six adult helpers and it was really just about getting things up and running.

“It will involve the national park and any community project. We are keen to keep the young people busy and I will do my best to get the numbers there.”