Age Restricted Products

Trading Standards enforces the law prohibiting the sale of age-restricted products and has a duty to protect children and young people.

Businesses, please note: The law is changing on 6th April 2015.  It will be illegal for traders to publicly display cigarettes and tobacco, except in certain circumstances.

Use this guidance to assist you in complying with the legislation (PDF, 1.92MB).

What do we do?

Suffolk Trading Standards offers advice, guidance and support to any Suffolk businesses that sell age restricted products to ensure that traders have procedures and resources in place to prevent sales to underage children.

We also work closely with Suffolk Police and Licensing Authorities to carry out covert test purchase operations to businesses in Suffolk who sell age restricted products. We use volunteer children, often between the ages of 14 and 17, to carry out test purchases of age restricted products to ensure shops and businesses are complying with the law. The test purchases are carried out in accordance with an approved national code of practice.

What are age restricted products?

An age restricted product is any product that can only legally be sold to a person of a certain age. 

The following table, showing penalties for selling, supplying, offering to supply and hiring (as appropriate to the legislation) products to persons under certain ages, is designed to guide you through the requirements of the law and assist in compliance.

ProductAge restrictionMaximum penalty
Adult fireworks and sparklers (category 2 [outdoor use - confined areas] and category 3 [outdoor use - large open areas] fireworks) 18 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Aerosol paint 16 and over £2,500
Alcohol 18 and over £5,000 and forfeit of licence
Christmas crackers 12 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Crossbows 18 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Knives / axes / blades 18 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Lighter refills containing butane 18 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Lottery tickets / 'instant win' cards 16 and over £5,000 and up to two years' imprisonment
Liqueur confectionery 16 and over £500
Party poppers and similar low-hazard low-noise fireworks (category 1) (except Christmas crackers) 16 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Petrol 16 and over £20,000 and up to 12 months' imprisonment
Tobacco products 18 and over £2,500
Video recordings: U (universal) Unrestricted N/A
Video recordings: PG (Parental Guidance) Unrestricted N/A
Video recordings: classification 12 12 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Video recordings: classification 15 15 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Video recordings: classification 18 18 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Video recordings: classification R18 18 years and over in a licensed sex shop £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Video games: PEGI rating 3 Unrestricted N/A
Video games: PEGI rating 7 Unrestricted N/A
Video games: PEGI rating 12 12 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Video games: PEGI rating 16 16 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Video games: PEGI rating 18 18 and over £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment
Volatile substances / solvents (offence to supply / offer to supply to under 18s occurs ONLY if the person knows or believes it is to be used for intoxification) 18 and over (but see left) £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment

How can businesses prevent sales of age restricted products to underage individuals?

In the same way that Trading Standards has a responsibility to prevent underage sales businesses who supply age restricted products have an equal, if not greater, responsibility to ensure they do not sell to children.

To ensure your business is doing all it can to prevent underage sales the following steps should be put in place:

  • Ensure all staff are trained in the sale of age restricted products.
  • Keep written records of the training you have provided to staff, ensuring the records are signed and dated.
  • Review all staff training on a regular basis and provide re-training to staff where necessary.
  • Keep a Refusals Book to record any refusals made by staff, noting down the date, details of the person refused and why.
  • Ensure that a manager or senior person reviews the Refusals Book regularly to ensure it is being completed and to take corrective action where it is not being completed.
  • Consider adopting a 'No ID, No Sale' policy requiring staff to ask everyone who looks underage for proof of age before a sale.
  • Consider implementing a Challenge 21 or 25 policy to make it easier for staff to identify underage purchases.
  • Clearly advertise, using posters, that customers will be asked for identification.

Suffolk Trading Standards does have available an Age Restricted Sales pack that contains more details, advice and resources that businesses can use to prevent sales to children. Below are some links to some resources that can be printed off including guidance on the law, a Refusals Book, a simple staff training record and some other useful resources.

Authorisation for the Sale of Alcohol (403KB, PDF)

Date of Birth Verification Sheet (389KB, PDF)

Underage Sales Information Posters (5.74MB, PDF)

Staff Training Questions (407KB, PDF)

Refusals Register (428KB, PDF)

Challenge 25 Poster (38.5KB, PDF)

Tobacco Notice (383KB, PDF)

Tobacco Display Guidance (1.92MB, PDF)

For further advice or guidance, or to request a hard copy of the Age Restricted Sales Pack, please contact Suffolk Trading Standards.

Proof of Age

Suffolk Trading Standards support three main types of proof of age identification including photo driving licences, passports and PASS cards bearing the PASS hologram. However, we are aware that as more businesses request forms of identification for age restricted products, more businesses are being offered false identification.

  • Always take the identification from the consumer to examine rather than examining from a distance.
  • Take the ID out of any holder it may be in. This will often show up poorly made cards.
  • Is it too flimsy or too rigid? This could indicate a photocopy or part-genuine ID that has been over-stickered.
  • Is the person in front of you the same as in the photograph?
  • What does the card actually say? Is it a valid driving licence or a provisional one? Are you instead being shown something that says National Identity Card or European Driving Permit?
  • Read the date of birth carefully and ask the consumer to tell you their date of birth while you hold the card. There is a good chance they will struggle.
  • Does the card have a swipe strip on the back like a credit card? If so, it is unlikely this is genuine as no proof of age cards in the UK have this.
  • The Golden Rule is take your time examining the ID, do not be rushed even if you're busy!

Have any information about shops selling to children?

If so please contact us via Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 who will be able to take the details and pass the information to us at Suffolk Trading Standards. Please be assured that any information you provide will be treated in the utmost confidence.

To read more about Trading Standards visit our homepage.