The stores say they will not sell to under-age youngsters but the Mirror’s 17-year-old undercover buyer was only once refused.
Other shops did not ask for ID and she bought 17 packets of expensive legal highs, five cans of “cannabis” drinks and three bottles of nitrite “poppers” in just two hours.
Her haul included packets of Clockwork Orange, a substance under investigation by the National Poison Information Service after three teenagers started vomiting blood after taking it.
It is estimated 700,000 young people aged 15 to 24 have experimented with legal highs in the UK and at least 40 deaths last year were linked to them. In June, Scottish dance music fan Anthony Storrie, 25, of Paisley, was killed after taking a cocktail of legal highs.
The Intoxicating Substances Supply Act 1985 makes it an offence to supply someone under 18 a substance if the seller “knows or has reasonable cause to believe the substance or its fumes are likely to be inhaled for the purpose of causing intoxication”.
The problem with the law as it stands is that it can be difficult to prove a shopkeeper knows substances sold will be taken.
Head shops have sprung up in many towns and cities.
Not far from the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London, the Mystical Headshop — next to a sports shop — sells a huge variety of club drugs.
There are warnings at the store and on its website that its wares are for “over-18s”.
But within minutes our 17-year-old, Hannah Rose-Wynter, bought £93 worth of mind-bending substances — no questions asked.
The shop assistant handed over three grams of Clockwork Orange — the latest “herbal high” craze — for £25.
The “synthetic cannabis” has gold and yellow packaging that looks like a sweet wrapper, but comes with fine print to get round the law, warning the user not to inhale or swallow.
The drug is referred to as “aresearch chemical” and for “lab use only”.
Hannah was also sold a legal high called Salvia — marked “for sale to adults only” — and a third type of herbal mixture called Pandora’s Box.
The shopkeeper also handed over six ready-made “joints” and “blunts” in foil packets in sweet flavours such as blueberry and bubblegum.
Hannah also got three types of “poppers” — vials of isopropyl nitrite marketed as a “room odouriser”.
Shiva headshop in Greenwich, South-East London, plies its trade to tourists.
The website — clearly marked with an “18” sign — boasts: “We’re your one-stop online shop for party supplies or a chilled night in!” The assistant sold Hannah four one gram bags of herbal incense, including another bag of Clockwork Orange, for £50.
In Sidcup, South East London, the slick frontage of the High Life shop says it sells “lifestyle and leisure accessories”. A sticker on the door warns that under-18s are not allowed.
But when Hannah visited the store, an assistant sold her four packets of legal highs for £30 within seconds.
The Jumping Bean tablet she bought is clearly marked with a “no under-18s” symbol and says on the back “not for sale to minors”. Though the pill is described as a “ research chemical pellet ” and “not for human consumption”, the blurb says it will have users “bouncing off the walls all night, a wicked speedy rush with lots tingles!”
Other products bought — Pink Panthers, Jack and Jills and Purple Bombs — are also marked “18”.
The Tower Head shop, on a South London estate near Tower Bridge, asked Hannah for ID and refused to serve her when she failed to give proof of age.
The refusal of many shopkeepers to heed the law has caused scores of angry parents to confront them.
Many music festivals now ban the sale of legal highs because of the danger they pose.