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Underage Sales Info

Trader's Guide

Consumer's Guide




Trader's Guide

If you sell...

  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes (and tobacco products)
  • Fireworks (including sparklers)
  • Knives
  • Lighter Refills
  • Paints and Solvents
  • Crossbows
  • DVD’s/Videos

...you must be sure someone is 18 years old or older before selling to them.


  • Lottery Tickets;
  • Caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents and throwdowns.
  • Liqueur chocolate
  • Aerosol Paints
  • Petroleum; and
  • Poisons

...you must be sure someone is 16 years old or older before selling to them.



If you have any doubt about the age of anyone wanting to buy any of these items, ask them for proof of age.

If you sell an age restricted product to someone under age then you could face a large fine or even a prison sentence—at the very least you may receive a fixed penalty. This applies to the business, but also to the person who makes the sale. If you have an alcohol licence, you may end up losing it.

Think 21

Think 21 means that if you think someone looks under 21 then ask for proof of age. Some retailers are now using age 25 as a guide—anyone who looks 25 or under gets asked to prove their age. This extra caution ensures that you don’t supply to someone under 18 by mistake.

Proof of Age

Where you ask for proof of age, it is important that you only accept legitimate identification.

Legitimate ID includes:

  • a passport,
  • driving licence, or
  • PASS-approved identification card.


Proxy Sales

If you think that an adult is buying alcohol or tobacco products for someone under 18, then refuse to sell to them and contact the Trading Standards Service for advice. Anyone who buys alcohol for a person under 18 may be committing an offence by doing so.


If you do commit an offence by selling to someone under-age, some legislation allows you to defend yourself if you are able show that you took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence.

When you refuse to sell because someone looks under 21 (or 25) and can’t provide proof of their age, then make a note of this in a Refusals Book. This record will show that you have taken precautions against selling to those under 18 * and help you satisfy a defence should you need to do so.


If you own the business and one of your staff sells to someone under-age, then you could still commit an offence. It is therefore important that you train your staff about under-age selling, make sure they understand that training, and keep a record of the training you have given them.


Age-restricted products - a consumer's guide

There are strict laws prohibiting the sale of certain items e.g. alcohol, tobacco and fireworks to young people as they are considered to present real risks to their health or welfare.


It is illegal for age restricted goods to be sold to those who are below the specified age limit. A business or individual seller can be fined or prosecuted and may lose their livelihood for making an illegal sale.

Why do I need to be concerned?

Ignoring the risks of using restricted products under age can lead to:

  • Long term health problems from tobacco and solvent abuse
  • Serious injury or death from fireworks and solvents
  • Being drawn into criminal or anti-social behaviour from alcohol, solvent abuse and gambling
  • Educational under-achievement from alcohol and solvent abuse


Bedford Trading Standards take the issue of sales of age restricted products to children very seriously. Not only is their health affected but the quality of life of the community at large is also damaged.


We have adopted a proactive approach to reduce illegal sales. Whilst maintaining a robust enforcement policy against those traders who flout their responsibilities we also are keen to work with traders who want to comply, for example by visiting traders, providing them with advice and information and organising trader seminars.


We also use intelligence gathered from the local community and others to identify areas of the county where illegal sales of age restricted products may be taking place and sometimes individual businesses. These areas/businesses can them be the subject of test purchase exercises using child volunteers.

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