Trading Standards - age restricted products/sales

Trading Standards carry out regular checks to ensure traders do not sell age restricted products to underage persons and operate a Responsible Retailer Scheme at assist traders to comply with these laws.

Trading Standards also support the Responsible Retailer Agreement on the Safe Storage and Sale of knives (RRA) in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).  

If you have any information about traders who are supplying age restricted products to underage persons you may report it through our partner organisation London Trading Standards (LTS) (external link). All reports will be treated in the strictest confidence and you can remain anonymous if you wish.

If you are a trader who sells age restricted products, see some advice on how to stay within the law.

Listed below are examples of products whose sale is controlled by age restriction.

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Alcohol

You must not sell alcohol to any person under the age of 18 years. It is also an offence to buy alcohol if you are under 18 or to buy it on behalf of a person who is under 18.

It is an offence for a person (e.g. the licence holder) to allow any of his staff to sell alcohol to a minor on licensed premises. The maximum penalty for  these offences is a level 3 fine of £5,000.

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Cigarettes and tobacco based products

It is an offence for you or your staff to sell cigarettes, tobacco, shisha or any smoking  based products including cigarette papers to a person under the age of 18. The law also applies to herbal based products which do not contain tobacco such as herbal shisha and herbal cigarettes.

You must sell cigarettes in packets of 20 or more and in their original plain packaging. You cannot sell single cigarettes to anyone.

You must display a clear A3 size sign where you sell cigarettes stating “It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

Cigarettes and tobacco products must be stored out of sight of customers except during a sale.

If you sell cigarettes to any person under the age of 18 years, you could face a fine of up to £2,500.

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E Cigarettes and Vaping Products

It is illegal to sell E cigarettes including Vaping liquids containing nicotine to any person below the age of 18. An offence carries a fine of £2,500.

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Fireworks - sparklers, party poppers, caps, cracker snaps

Fireworks and sparklers

You cannot sell fireworks and/or sparklers to anyone under the age of 18. You cannot sell fireworks to anyone under that age.

Party poppers / caps / cracker snaps

You cannot sell party poppers, caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, serpents and throw downs to anyone who you feel is, or looks, under the age of 16 years.

Shopkeepers who breach the requirements can be prosecuted in a magistrates court and if found guilty can be fined up to £5,000, face a term of imprisonment, or up to 6 months, or both.

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Dangerous chemicals - cigarette lighter fuel, glue, aerosols

Cigarette lighter fuel

You must not sell or supply cigarette lighter fuel or any cigarette lighter re-fill canister containing butane, or any other substance containing butane, to any person under the age of 18.

The penalty for selling the above to an under age person is up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of £5,000, or both.

Intoxicating solvents

It is an offence for you to sell or supply any substance to a person under the age of 18 years, or to a person acting on their behalf, knowing, or having reasonable cause to suspect that the substance, or its fumes will be inhaled for the purpose of causing intoxication.

Along with solvent based glue and aerosols these include dry cleaning fluid, correction fluid and thinner, marker pens, ‘cold start’ and anti freeze.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction is up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of £5,000, or both.

Aerosol paint

You must not sell an aerosol paint container (a device which contains paint stored under pressure and which is designed to permit the release of paint as a spray) to anyone under 16.

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Acids

Under the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, it is an offence to sell cleaning products containing corrosive substances to a person under the age 18.

Examples of more common products that contain acidic or other corrosive substances are as follows:

  • Drain cleaners/unblockers containing sulfuric acid (over 15% concentration)  
  • Paint strippers, drain cleaners/unblockers containing sodium hydroxide (over 12% concentration)   
  • Brick, patio and other cleaners or limescale removers containing hydrochloric acid (over 10% concentration) 
  • Bleaching and other products containing sodium hypochlorite (over 10% concentration) 
  • Cleaning and other products containing ammonium hydroxide (over 10% concentration) 
  • Cleaners, rust removers and other products containing phosphoric acid (over 70% concentration)  

On conviction you can be fined  or face 51 weeks imprisonment if you fail to comply with the law.

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DVDs, Blu Rays and computer games

It is illegal to sell, rent or supply a video work which can include video games, unless it has been given legal classification by British Board of Film classification. There are some exceptions to this rule for sport, documentary, music or religious works.

Most computer and video  games are exempt from classification, but some must be classified by the BBFC. For example, where they depict violence towards humans. For these the same restrictions apply.

The penalty for selling or hiring out a video work which should have been classified but has not been is an unlimited fine and/or up to 2 years imprisonment.

You cannot sell, rent or supply Blu Rays or DVDs to any person under the ages of 12, 15 and 18 years unless the material has been classified suitable for that particular age.

Restricted 18 video Blu Rays and DVDs  (R18) can be supplied only in licensed sex shops to persons 18 years and over.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction is a fine of £20,000, a term of imprisonment of 6 months, or both.

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Dangerous Weapons - air weapons, crossbows, knives

Air weapons

It is an offence for you to sell or supply an air weapon to a person under the age of 18 years, It is also an offence for a person under the age of 18 years to have an air weapon in a public place unless it is securely fastened in a gun cover in such a way that it cannot be fired.

It is an offence to make a gift of an air weapon to a person under 14 years of age.

The penalty for selling or hiring an air weapon to a person under the age of 18 years is up to 6 months imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 or both.

Crossbows

It is an offence for you to sell or hire a crossbow to a person under the age of 18 years. The maximum penalty on summary conviction is 6 months imprisonment or a fine of £5,000 or both.

Knives

It is illegal to sell the following items to anyone under 18-years-old:

  • Any knife, knife blade or razor blade
  • Any axe
  • Any article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed, and which is made or adapted for causing injury to the person

The prohibition does not apply to:

  • A folding pocket knife with a blade of less than 3 inches (7.62cm); or
  • A razor blade permanently held in a cartridge or similar housing where less than 2mm of the blade is exposed

The prohibition is not intended to apply to articles such as scissors or compasses. It does however, apply to traditional non cartridge razor blades, modelling knives and blade refills.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction is 6 months imprisonment or a fine of £5,000 or both.

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Lottery tickets and scratch cards

It is illegal to sell lottery tickets or scratch cards to a person under the age of 18.

It is also illegal for members of staff under the age of 18 to sell lottery tickets or scratch cards.

If you sell lottery or scratch cards to someone under 18 you may be fined up to £5,000 and/or serve 2 years imprisonment.

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Petrol

It is illegal to sell petrol to a person under the age of 16.

No person under the age of 18 years should be left in sole charge of a petrol station.

If you sell petrol to a person under 16 you may be fined up to £5,000.

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Bookmakers

It is an offence under the Gambling Act 2005 to invite, cause or permit a person under the age of 18 years to gamble

A person committing this offence may be fined up to £5,000 or serve up to 51 weeks imprisonment.

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Sunbeds

It is an offence under the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act for a business to allow or invite  a person under the age of 18 to use a sunbed. An offence carries an unlimited fine.

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Advice to Traders: Staying within the law

If you are a business are some simple steps you can take to help prevent illegal sales of age restricted products. Following these rules may  help you avoid prosecution.

  • Ask For ID- If in any doubt, ask for photo identification as proof of age from young customers as appropriate. A valid passport or  photo driving licence are acceptable.
  • Operate A “Challenge 25” Policy- This means that you and your staff challenge every potential customer who looks under 25 and ask to see identification if they try to buy and age restricted product. By doing this you will ensure you challenge people who are under 18 but look older.
  • Train Your Staff- By ensuring all your staff receive regular training and refresher training your staff will always be alert. Don’t forget to record training in writing so you can prove that it has been done should you have a problem.
  • Signage- Put up signs to remind staff and customers of age restrictions. Sometimes a sign will help your staff reassure unhappy customers as why they need to ask for ID.
  • Refusals Book- Recording in writing every time you refuse a sale will allow you to check your staff are taking responsibilities seriously and help you prove you are running a responsible business.
  • Till Prompts- If you have a till scanning system, you can often add a till prompt to age restricted products which will remind staff. If you do not have a scanner you can add  a warning sticker to the product itself.
  • Product Placement- Move age restricted products to a position where customers have to ask for them rather than self-select. 
  • Join the Councils Responsible Retailer  Scheme- Click here for more information and how you can get free tools and assistance to help you comply with the law. We will be happy to advise you on best practice.

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Page last updated:

February 19, 2024