Underage sales

Laws restrict young people's access to certain products to protect their health and wellbeing.

Age checks for selling alcohol, cigarettes and DVDs

Always ask for photo ID. If you are in any doubt about a customer's age, you should refuse the sale. Make sure staff have clear, written instructions about your policy and display signs telling them what ages apply to which products. You may also want to keep a refusals book noting each time a sale is declined. Further advice can be found on the Trading Standards Institute and Talking Retail websites.

List of age restricted products

Here is a list of products and the age restriction that applies:

18 years old:

  • alcohol
  • fireworks, including sparklers
  • knives, axes and blades
  • lighter refills
  • solvents
  • tobacco products
  • computer games and DVDs classified 18
  • nicotine inhaling products

16 years old:

  • aerosol spray paint
  • lottery tickets
  • petroleum spirit
  • party poppers, cracker snaps, novelty matches

15 years old:

  • computer games and DVDs classified 15

12 years old:

  • computer games and DVDs classified 12

Trading standards provides advice to traders and takes action to deal with underage sales.

Challenge 21

We support the Challenge 21 scheme, which aims to help retailers and licensees check the age of anyone buying age restricted products who look under 21. As it is often difficult to judge age, if buyers of age restricted products appear to be under 21 they will be asked to prove that they are the required age. The scheme does not suggest that you must be 21 to buy the products.

Retailers are also being warned about the growing number of fake ID cards and are being asked to remind staff to look at the potential buyer before making a sale, checking how the individual looks, their manner and demeanour, all of which are indications of their age. If in doubt, retailers should ask for ID. Acceptable forms of proof of age are:

  • a driving licence (only photo licences are acceptable)
  • passport
  • a proof of age card bearing the PASS hologram

If you are a retailer or licensee and would like advice on the sale of age-restricted products, contact our business advice team.

Consumer advice is available by calling 0808 223 1133.

This includes making complaints about a trader, product, or to report a scam. This service is provided on our behalf by the Citizens Advice service and they will pass details of enforcement issues to us.