It is a criminal offence for businesses to sell cigarettes, fireworks, solvents, alcohol and offensive weapons such as knives, air guns and cross bows to young people under the age of 18.
Similar rules apply to lottery tickets, videos and computer games, where the age limit can be lower. In each case it is a criminal offence to sell any of these products to a person under the specified age.
The police and trading standards officers enforce the laws restricting sales and harsh penalties apply to those who do not comply. Business owners and staff can all be prosecuted for selling these products to anyone who is underage.
If you're a consumer and want to report alleged underage sales activity, please contact Crimestoppers.
How to prevent underage sales - retailer support and guidance
Underage drinking is not only harmful to those involved, but it also sometimes leads to anti-social behaviour, noise and litter. If you sell alcohol, you must make sure that you and your staff take all necessary steps to prevent its sale to under 18s. Find information on the best ways to avoid committing an offence on the Sale of alcohol - retailer guidance web page.
If you're a business which sells tobacco products on your premises then you'll need to be aware of the laws which control those sales. This includes the existing ban on sales to anyone under the age of 18 and the ban on open display of tobacco products, accessories and prices which is extended to all businesses in April 2015. Find out more on our Sale of tobacco products - retailer guidance page.
Businesses selling fireworks must display a large (A3) notice stating "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". All premises storing explosives such as fireworks need to be registered or licensed for their storage.
Fireworks can only be sold at certain times of the year, but a licence must be obtained for all year round sales. Find out more about Fireworks, safety and the law.
If you need advice about knife sales contact the Police for advice. For lottery ticket sales advice - contact the National Lottery.
A list of products that have age restrictions associated with them can be found below:
Not to be sold to anyone under the age of 12 or 15
- certificate 12 and 15 videos, DVDs and games
Not to be sold to anyone under the age of 16
- lottery tickets
- scratch cards
- party poppers, novelty matches, table bombs etc
- liqueur chocolates
- spray paints
Not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18
- tobacco products and cigarette papers
- gas lighter refills
- certificate 18 videos, DVDs and games
Checking your customer's age
Trading standards officers check for underage sales of any age restricted products with child volunteers. If you are in any doubt and the person can't provide legitimate proof of their age, the best advice is to refuse to sell the goods to them.
The best way to check a customer's age is to adopt Challenge 25 age verification. This encourages staff to challenge anyone, who looks under the age of 25, to provide ID that confirms they are over 18 if they are buying alcohol.
The Challenge 25 website has more information and you can also download posters to display on your premises.
ID you should you provide
Photographic ID such as:
- a passport or driving licence
- Government approved proof-of-age cards which display the Proof of Age Standard Scheme (PASS) accredited hologram.
Find out more about how to spot a false ID and what action you should take on Gov.uk: false ID guidance.
- 03000 261 016
Our address is:
- Trading Standards
- Durham County Council
- County Hall
- County Durham
- United Kingdom
- DH1 5UB