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Underage sales

Underage sales laws exist to safeguard the health and welfare of young people. Business owners and sales assistants are liable for prosecution if illegal sales are made.

To view our leaflets on age restricted products.

Age restricted products
Age Restricted Products 
 Cigarettes / Tobacco products  18 years
 Lottery Tickets  16 years
 Scratch Cards  16 years
 Gas Lighter Refills  18 years
 Fireworks  18 years
 DVDs and Videos  12, 15, 18 years
 Computer Games  12, 15, 18 years
 Alcohol  18 years


  • Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulation 1999
  • Intoxicating Substances Supply Act 1985
  • Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997
  • National Lottery Etc Act 1993
  • Children and Young Persons Act 1933
  • Video Recordings Act 1984
  • Licensing Act 2003

How is the law enforced?

The Trading Standards Service is committed to reducing the number of illegal sales, and seeks to do this by working with businesses, offering advice and guidance, investigating complaints, and by conducting test purchase exercises with young volunteers in order to assess the level of compliance. In such cases, volunteers follow strict national guidelines to ensure fairness.

Trading Standards Officers and the Police enforce jointly the law prohibiting sales of alcohol to children.

Trading Standards Department is always ready to give personal advice and information to traders about under-age sales,


What does the law say about the sale of alcohol to young people?

1. It is an offence for anyone to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18.
2. A store manager or person in charge of the premises where a sale has been made to a person under the age of 18 can be held responsible if he knowingly lets the sale go ahead.
3. A person who buys or attempts to buy alcohol on behalf of a person under the age of 18 commits an offence.

Who enforces the law?

The Trading Standards Service and the Police work together in order to enforce the law on sales of alcohol to young people.

Should I display any notices for customers?

There is no legal requirement to display a warning notice,. However, you may want to consider displaying them conspicuously as part of your system for avoiding illegal sales. A suitable form of wording might be: "It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18"

What are the penalties for breaking the law?

If an illegal sale is made, you could be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £5000. If a member of staff makes an illegal sale of alcohol they could be served with a £80 penalty notice for disorder (on the spot fine). Additionally licence holders could face prosecution, and if found guilty a fine of up to £5000. Depending on the circumstances, you may also find that the licence is called for review / revocation.

Tobacco Products

Since October 2007 the law has changed  so that the minimum age for the purchase of tobacco has increased from 16 to 18 years old. Therefore it is now against the law to sell tobacco products (including tobacco, cigarette papers and cigars as well as cigarettes) to anyone under the age of 18. All sales are affected. Sales from vending machines have now been banned.


You will need to display a tobacco age sign (the statutory notice) stating:-

‘It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18’

As before, the notice must be at least A3 in size (420mm x 297mm) and the letters must be at least 36mm in height. You may be able to obtain such a sign from your supplier of tobacco products.

An effective system to prevent underage sales

You should have a system in place to safeguard against underage sales being made. Staff should always ask for proof of age whenever a young person attempts to purchase tobacco products or other age restricted product, and many retailers now adopt a ‘Challenge 21’ policy whereby anyone under appearing the age of 21 is asked to prove their age.

Further information on acceptable forms of proof of age and other measures you can introduce as part of your system can be found on

Staff Training

Ensure that staff are fully trained in respect of the change in the law, and their responsibilities under it. You should also ensure that staff follow the systems you have in place to avoid underage sales being made. Depending upon the circumstances, both the sales person and the owner of the business can be liable for an illegal sale.

Proof of age cards

Rhondda Cynon Taff Council Trading Standards Service and Community Safety Partnership along with South Wales Police support the use of proof of age cards such as Validate or Citizens Card. Such cards are for young people aged 12 to 18 years. The aim of the cards is to ensure that age restricted products are only sold to those legally entitled to buy them and they also help those who look younger that they are to prove their age.

When carrying out test purchases by using young volunteers Trading Standards and the police will check whether the volunteers are challenged about their age, by being asked to provide proof of age. All staff should be trained to always ask for such proof of age and staff members should receive regular refresher training. Shop staff should be trained to effectively but tactfully deal with customers who might be under age. It should be remembered that it is often the ones who know that they look old enough who will attempt to buy products, both for themselves and for their friends.

Penalties for breaking the law

On conviction, the maximum penalties are:-

  • £2,500 in respect of an underage sale of tobacco products
  • £1000 in respect of failing to display the statutory notice

How can I report outlets selling age-restricted goods to children?

If you believe that underage sales are occurring at retail outlets, you can report the matter to us quickly by using the form for reporting underage sales on this webpage.

Where can I obtain further guidance?

Should you require any further guidance, please contact;

Trading Standards
Tel: 01443 425001