There are a number of categories of goods that are subject to restrictions on the age of people that they can be sold to.
The following goods and products can only be sold to those over the age of 18 except in Scotland where domestic knives can be sold to those aged 16 and over.
- Adult fireworks and sparklers (category F2 [outdoor use: confined areas] and category F3 [outdoor use: large open areas] fireworks)
- Knives / axes / blades / crossbows
- Lighter refills containing butane
- Nicotine inhaling products, also known as vapes
We regularly visit premises where age restricted goods are being offered for sale to check their knowledge of the law and that they have robust systems in place to prevent the sale of goods to people who are underage.
We will also carry out test purchasing exercises using underage volunteers where we have received intelligence about the illegal sale of underage products. If a business sells products to the volunteer it is possible that they will be prosecuted.
It is also an offence to buy alcohol on behalf of children. If you're caught you could be issued with an £80 penalty notice or a court could fine you up to £5,000.
How to Prevent Underage Sales
As a business, there steps that you can take to help indicate that you have taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence in trying to prevent the sale to underage customers by you or your staff. Steps that can be taken include:
- age verification checks. Verify the age of potential buyers by asking to see an identity card that bears the PASS hologram (the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) is the UK's national proof-of-age accreditation scheme supported by the Home Office, a Passport, Photo Driving Licence or a Military Identification Card.
- Challenge 25. As a business you could decide to carry out age verification checks on anyone who looks younger than 25. If you are a business that sells alcohol this may be part of your licensing conditions.
- staff training. Make sure your staff receive adequate training on underage sales. Keep a training record and make sure the training is regularly updated.
- use of till prompts. You can use prompts that appear on the till when an age-restricted product is scanned to remind staff to carry out age verification checks.
- store layout, signage and CCTV. Keep your age-restricted products where they can be monitored by staff. Ensure you have adequate signs to inform consumers of the minimum legal age to purchase. You are legally required to display notices for tobacco and fireworks.
- keep and maintain a refusals register. This means keeping a record (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer) where sales of age-restricted products have been refused. This helps to demonstrate that you actively refuse sales and have an effective system in place.
E-Cigarettes / Vapes
E-Cigarettes, more commonly known as ‘vapes’, are ‘nicotine inhaling products’ that are not able to be sold to people who are under eighteen. A person who sells a vape to someone under 18 commits an offence. This is a strict liability offence; the owner of the business can be held responsible as well as the member of staff who made the sale.
If you are convicted of selling tobacco or vapes to persons under 18, and at least two other offences occurred in the preceding two years relating to the same premises, trading standards can make an application to a Magistrates' Court for a restricted premises order and/or a restricted sales order.
A restricted premises order prohibits the sale from the premises of any tobacco, cigarette papers or vapes to any person, by you or any of your staff for a period of up to one year. You are entitled to make representations to the court as to why they should not grant the order.
A restricted sales order prohibits a specified person who has been convicted of a tobacco or nicotine offence from selling any tobacco, cigarette papers or vapes to any person and from having any management function related to the sale of tobacco, cigarette papers or vapes for a period of up to one year.
Product Requirements for Vapes
All vapes must comply with the requirements of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations and be labelled in accordance with the CLP Regulation for hazardous substances. The key requirements are listed below.
Nicotine-containing vapes must not:
- a nicotine strength of more than 20mg/ml or 2%
- contain more than 2ml of nicotine-containing liquid
The packaging (box) of a nicotine-containing vape must be labelled with:
- Nicotine strength (e.g. 20mg/ml)
- Volume of nicotine-containing liquid in the product (e.g. 2ml)
- Be aware – stating the number of puffs is not sufficient on its own, but if any vape declares more than 1000 puffs, then it will contain more than 2ml of nicotine
- Name, address and telephone number of a GB based responsible person (manufacturer or importer).
- Health warning, which must be this exact wording: “THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS NICOTINE WHICH IS A HIGHLY ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCE” and must appear on the front and back of the box and cover at least 30% of the area of each of those surfaces. Be aware - some products have been seen with similar, but not exactly the same, wording and are therefore illegal
- Ingredients list
- Hazard symbol and associated signal word, either:
- Tactile warning, to alert blind and partially sighted users to the above dangers. This is in the form of a raised trangle – run your hand over the box to find it.