Welcome to your Lancashire

Underage sales


Neither you nor anyone you employ should sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. In addition: -

  • It is illegal for a young person to buy or attempt to buy alcohol
  • It is a criminal offence for any person to buy or attempt to buy alcohol for a person under the age of 18 years

Allowing young people to buy alcohol may encourage bad behaviour in the area from which you trade, which could affect your business.

Confectionary containing Alcohol

Sweets containing alcohol including liqueur chocolates etc must not be sold to children under 16 years.

The maximum penalty for not following the law is a level 5 fine of up to £5000 under the Licensing Act 2003 and your liquor licence may be removed or suspended.

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It is illegal to sell tobacco products to children under the age of 18 years even if they are for someone else including their parents. It is not a defence that the child or young person looked over 18. You must take steps to establish the age of the child or young person - if there is any doubt as to a person's age then they should not be sold cigarettes.

Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigarette papers, cigars, pipe tobacco, products containing tobacco intended for oral use or nasal use and smoking mixtures intended as a substitute for tobacco.

You must only sell cigarettes in packets of 10 or more in their original packaging and must not sell loose cigarettes or split packets. It is an offence to break open packets and sell loose cigarettes to both adults and children.

If you sell cigarettes to any person under the age of 18 years you could face a fine of up to £2500.

You must display a clear notice stating " It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 "

The sign must have letters at least 36 mm high, be (A3 size) 297mmx420mm and be visible where tobacco products are sold.

If you fail to display this sign then you could face a fine of up to £1000.

Cigarette vending machines

It is illegal to sell tobacco products directly to members of the public from a vending machine.

The maximum penalty is £2500.

For further guidance please follow this link.

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You must not sell fireworks to any person under the age of 18 years (remember sparklers are fireworks) You must not sell party poppers, caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, serpents and throwdowns to anyone who you feel or looks under the age of 16 years.

If you sell these products to children you could be fined up to £5000 in the magistrates court or face a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months or both.

You must display the statutory notice ( min size 400mm x 300mm, letters at least 16mm in height) with the wording: -

" It is illegal to sell adult fireworks to anyone under the age of 18 " and " It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess adult fireworks in a public place " .

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Video cassette tapes/DVDs/computer games

You must not sell, rent or supply a video cassette or DVD unless the British Board of Film Classification has classified it.

You must not supply (including hiring out) a video cassette tape or DVD to a person who is under the age marked on the video cassette tape/DVD.

Most computer games are exempt from classification but if the game is classified then it must not be supplied to a person who is under the age marked on the game.

The age restrictions are 12,15 and 18 .

The maximum fine for selling or renting an age restricted cassette/DVD to a child under the specified age is £5000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.

Restricted 18 video cassettes and DVDs can be supplied only in licensed sex shops to persons 18 years of age and older.

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Cigarette lighter fuel

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

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Intoxicating solvents

Examples are solvent based glues, aerosols, dry cleaning fluid, correction fluid and thinners, marker pens, antifreeze.

You must not sell or supply any substance to a person under the age of 18 years, which you believe they may inhale for the purpose to cause intoxication.

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Lottery tickets

You must not supply lottery tickets and scratch cards to children under 16 years.

You must display a notice in your shop warning against supplying lottery tickets and scratch cards to children under the age of 16 years.

You must not supply these items to a child even if they say they are for their parents or for another adult.

It is important to note that if you sell to a child then you may be breaching your contract with your supplier of the Lottery Terminal, which could result ultimately in the terminal being removed.

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Imitation Firearms

Imitation firearms are items that have the appearance of being a firearm, whether or not they are capable of firing any shot, bullet or other missile.

It is an offence to sell an imitation firearm to anyone under the age of 18. It is also an offence for anyone under 18 to purchase one. The maximum penalty for breaching the restrictions is 6 months imprisonment and/or a £5000 fine.

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You must not sell or hire a crossbow to a person under the age of 18 years.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction is 6 months imprisonment, a fine of £5000 or both.

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You must not sell knives to any person under the age of 18 years.

You cannot market a knife in a way that indicates it is suitable for combat or to encourage violent behaviour.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction is 6 months imprisonment or a fine of £5000 or both.

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Aerosol paints

You must not sell an aerosol paint container to a person under the age of 16 years. Maximum penalty £2500.

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You must not sell petrol to any person under the age of 16 years. No person under the age of 18 years should be left in sole charge of a filling station.

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You cannot allow a person under the age of 18 to use a sunbed.

The maximum penalty is a fine of up to £20,000.

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Steps to avoid breaking the law

  • Never assume the age of the young person.
  • If in doubt, or if they look young, then ask the person their age and always seek proof.
  • If they cannot prove their age then refuse to sell.
  • Ensure that all your staff (including temporary and part time staff) are fully trained to not sell age restricted products to children. Document your staff training.
  • Regularly remind your staff not to sell age restricted products to children and provide regular training. It is also good practice to maintain a refusal book.
  • Display the statutory notices for the sale of cigarettes, fireworks and lottery tickets.
  • You can also display notices about lighter refills, alcohol and solvents.
  • Separate age restricted videos from general videos and keep solvents out of view to make it easier for you to control their supply.
  • Cigarette vending machines must be located where their usage can be monitored and controlled.
  • Consider a minimum 21 policy for any 18 restricted product such as alcohol, fireworks , cigarettes or knives.
This information is intended for retailers selling age-restricted goods. It is intended for guidance as only the courts can interpret the law. If you require further advice regarding the law then please contact Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service on 01772 532145

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Retailer Support

Working With Business

Research conducted by Independent Retail News revealed that:

  • 43% of retailers had experienced some sort of violent crime as a result of refusing an underage sale.
  • 64% of North West traders suffered attacks, the highest in the UK.
  • 79% stated that they need help including support for "No proof-no sale" policies.

The Age Check scheme is designed to empower retailers to say No to attempted purchases of alcohol and other age restricted goods by underage people.

The Age Check Scheme

Comprises of posters, stickers and tear off pads that is designed for the following purposes: -

  • To inform retailers of the legal age limits for all age restricted products.
  • To alert any potential purchaser that they may be asked for proof of age.
  • To inform both retailers and customers of the forms of identification that will be accepted as proof of age.
  • To warn customers that the retailer may be prosecuted if they sell to an underage person.
  • To inform the purchaser on how to obtain a recognised proof of age card.

The primary aim of the Age Check pack is to create a culture within Lancashire that young people will be asked to verify their age when purchasing age restricted goods such as alcohol, tobacco and fireworks by producing an accepted form of identification.

Trading Standards is committed to working in partnership with businesses that genuinely want to comply with the law, but those businesses that openly flout the law and sell products such as alcohol to underage people will face prosecution.

The Age Check scheme has been rolled out across Lancashire. If you require a pack for your business then please contact the Duty Officer on 01772 532145 .

Age Check interactive DVD based training package

An Age Check DVD has now been developed as a training package specifically designed to help you and your staff members in respect of age restricted products.

The major part of the resource is a film, which, as well as informing you of the law, offers useful advice on handling age-restricted sales. It shows realistic examples of scenarios, which you may face and offers tips on how to avoid confrontation when refusing an underage sale. The resource also contains various printable documents including: -

  • A guide to saying no and issues surrounding refusing sales
  • Best practice -useful steps to avoid breaking the law
  • Refusals records forms-an ideal way to spot perpetual offender patterns
  • Training record sheets-to ensure that your staff training has been documented
  • The Law - a synopsis of current legislation and possible penalties
  • A summary of age limits-a visual reminder of minimum age limits
  • Test your knowledge section-interactive quiz to test you and staff members
  • Details of acceptable forms of ID-essential in verifying the age of your customers

The resource has the facility to broadcast in 4 languages (Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarati) as well as in English. It is designed to be shown on a regular basis to staff members who are responsible for the sale of age-restricted products.

By spending approximately 45 minutes viewing this resource and adhering to the advice therein it should help you to prevent the sale of age-restricted products from your business and demonstrate that you have taken preventative measures to avoid underage sales.

The resource is available free of charge to Lancashire retailers who sell age restricted products. If further free copies are required, they can be obtained by contacting the Duty Officer on 01772 532145.

What if I would like to distribute Age Check in my area?

The resource is also available to organisations based outside of Lancashire who have an interest in restricting the supply of age-restricted goods such as alcohol to children. The resource has already been supplied to nearly 200 organisations throughout the UK and interest has been received from organisations like the Police, Drug Action Teams and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. The resource has been endorsed by the Trading Standards Institute as a model of best practice and can be made bespoke with your logos.

Visit www.agecheck.co.uk for guidance.

Age Check Guidance Leaflets

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Facts About Substance Abuse

Let's look at the some of the reasons why some products are restricted;


Young people are drinking more and drinking more often. A survey into adolescent health found that regular heavy drinking and binge drinking behaviours are associated with a whole range of problems including antisocial behaviour, violence, accidents, physical and mental health problems and poor school performance.

Approximately 1000 people aged 15 are admitted to hospital each year with acute alcohol poisoning and this worrying trend is also likely to increase sexual behaviour. In the wider picture there are now more than 25,000 alcohol related deaths each year.

Did you know..
  • Drinking too much can cause alcoholic poisoning, which can be fatal.
  • Drinking to much can lead to loss of consciousness which can result in users choking on their own vomit
  • Alcohol is a depressant drug, which can leave you feeling down.
  • Long term over use of alcohol can lead to serious diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, which can be fatal.
  • Heavy drinking over a long time can weaken the heart muscles, which can eventually lead to heart failure.
  • A permanent effect of prolonged drinking is to kill brain cells, which can never be replaced.
  • Women are more easily affected by alcohol because they are generally smaller and proportionately have less body water.


The harmful effects to health caused by smoking are well known - each cigarette contains a cocktail of over 4000 chemicals, which contributes to nearly 100,000 premature deaths and 2000 limb amputations.

Once they have started to smoke, children become addicted to nicotine very quickly and continue the habit into adult life. Most adult smokers started to smoke before they were 16 years of age.

Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and is linked to heart disease, chronic bronchitis and asthma. A recent report on smoking amongst secondary school children showed that 25% of all pupils in England had tried to buy cigarettes in the last year - 60% were successful!

Solvent Abuse

There are a number of products that are classed as solvents, these include;

  •   Lighter gas refills and canisters
  •   Aerosols containing products such as hairspray
  •   Tins or tubes of glue
  •   As well as some paint thinners and correction fluid

Solvent misuse mostly involves children of school age - about one in ten secondary school children try sniffing at least once. It seems that the peak age for experimenting is around 13 or 14 years.

The physical side effects can include vomiting, disorientation and dizziness. Persistent use can cause a redness or rash around the mouth and nose due to the irritant nature of many solvents. Solvent misuse can also cause disruption to sleep and an inability to concentrate.

Solvent misuse can also cause death, with one person being killed each week.

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What We Are Doing

Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service is committed to working with like-minded partner organisations to reduce the supply of age-restricted products such as alcohol, tobacco, solvents and fireworks to underage people.

We mount regular test purchasing operations to single out those retailers who sell to underage people. If a sale ensues then the retailer concerned faces the prospect of court action. Retailers and staff members can be fined up to £5000 for selling age restricted products to underage people, and in some instances can lose their licence to sell alcohol.

If you have any information on shops that are selling to children then contact us on 08454 040506.

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Child Volunteers

Unfortunately, we have filled our quota of child volunteers.

Please check back at a later date, if you are ideally aged between 14 - 16 years and interested in assisting in test purchase operations.

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© 2014, Lancashire County CouncilPhone: 0300 123 6701 email: enquiries@lancashire.gov.uk