The full range of age restricted products are considered to present real risks to the health and welfare of children and teenagers.
Legislation prohibits the supply (sale or hire) of specific products to persons under specified age limits. This web-page briefly describes some of the products covered by age restrictions, the reasons why certain restrictions exist and how illegal sales can be avoided.
Which products are age-restricted?
|16||Aerosol paint containers|
|18||Cigarettes, Electronic Cigarettes and Tobacco|
|18||Fireworks (Excluding Party Poppers)|
|18||Cigarette Lighter Refills containing butane|
|16||Lottery Tickets and Scratchcards|
|12,15 or 18||Video Recordings and Computer Games|
Why these products are age-restricted?
|Each year||82%||87,000 people a year die from tobacco related illness and disease; 82% of smokers take up the habit as teenagers.|
|Since 1971||53%||1,700 people have died from 'solvent' abuse. 53% of deaths were between the ages of 14 and 18.|
|In 2002||24%||24% of 11 to 15 year olds drank alcohol at least once a week, consuming on average 8.4 units per week.|
|By 1997||75%||75% of 12 to 15 year olds gambled on fruit machines.|
|47%||47% had gambled on National Lottery scratchcards.|
|40%||40% had gambled on the National Lottery draw.|
|In 2005||990||990 recorded injuries involved fireworks.|
The reasons for restrictions
Children and teenagers who use and abuse such products, therefore, risk the following:
- Long-term health problems, serious injury or even death resulting from tobacco, solvent abuse and fireworks
- Being drawn into criminal or anti-social behaviour resulting from alcohol, solvent abuse and gambling
- Educational under-achievement resulting from alcohol and solvent abuse
How these problems can be avoided
- By children
- Children can help protect themselves by obeying the law and not trying to buy goods if they are under-age
- By parents, teachers and other adults
- Many, if not most, under-age buyers get their products from shops
Trading Standards Officers need to know which shops are making, or are suspected of making, illegal sales so that steps can be taken through advice, warnings or prosecution to prevent such sales.
It is vital that such knowledge or suspicions are reported to Trading Standards services, even if this is done anonymously.
Parents, teachers and adults in general can play a crucial role in this respect.
Remember: a trader can be prosecuted and may even lose their livelihood for making an illegal sale.
12 Video Recordings and Computer Games
It is illegal to supply a person who has not attained the age 12 a 12 rated film
15 Video Recordings and Computer Games
It is illegal to supply a person who has not attained the age 15 a 15 rated film.
18 Cigarettes, Electronic Cigarettes and Tobacco
It is illegal to sell cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and tobacco to a person under 18.
It is illegal for a trader to supply fireworks to anyone 'apparently' under 18. The only exceptions are those items classified as suitable for persons aged 16 and over, these include products such as caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers and throwdowns, the age restriction is 16. Fireworks must be sold in their original packaging, which includes warnings, and should not be split into single items.
Go to to our Guidance for fireworks retailers webpage.
It is illegal to supply liqueur chocolates to anyone under 16.
Lottery tickets and scratchcards
It is illegal to sell a lottery ticket or scratchcard to a person under 16. National Lottery retailers must display notices to this effect.
It is illegal to supply aerosol paint to anyone under 16.
It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18 or purchase alcohol if you are under 18. Licensees, cashiers and buyers could all be prosecuted. In Scotland, it is illegal for a trader to sell to someone they suspect is making a purchase for an under-age person.
Cigarette Lighter Refills containing butane
It is illegal to supply a cigarette lighter refill containing butane to anyone under 18, or a person acting on behalf of someone under 18, if the trader knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the substance, or its fumes, is likely to be inhaled by the person to achieve intoxication. In respect of other solvents go to our webpage Psychoactive Substances Act 2016
Video recordings and computer games
It is illegal to sell or supply a video, DVD or computer game to a person who has not attained the age specified on the video classification.
Video classifications include:
- U: Suitable for all,
- PG: General viewing but some some scenes may be unsuitable for young children,
- 12: Suitable for 12 years and over,
- 15: Suitable only for 15 years and over,
- 18: Suitable only for adults.
For more detailed information on all the issues that are related to age restricted products go to the following webpages:
- Illegal Sales of Alcohol
- Illegal Sales of Tobacco
- Illegal Sales of Fireworks
- Illegal Sales of DVD's and Computer Games
- Illegal Sales of Spray Paints
- Sales of Corrosive Substances
Consultation on new legislation on offensive and dangerous weapons
On the 14 October 2017 the Home Office published a consultation on a proposal to introduce new legislation to tackle offensive and dangerous weapons. This proposal includes new tactical options to tackle online sales of knives and also the sale of corrosive substances. Go to consultation and it ends on the 9 December 2017. To see the response from the North East Trading Standards Association go to Response (pdf 336 kb)
Voluntary Ban on the Sale of Corrosive Substances
Some of the UK's largest retailers have now agreed to voluntarily stop the sales of corrosive substances to those under 18. The restrictions will apply to drain cleaners containing sulphuric acid, as well as paint strippers, limescale removers and other cleaning products with an acid concentration of more than 10% or 12%. To see an article which outlines the proposals go to BBC News of the 7 January 2018. Go to our webpage Sales of Corrosive Substances
Home Office Announcement
On the 8 April 2018 the Government announced that the new Offensive Weapons Bill will make it illegal to possess certain offensive weapons like zombie and knuckle-dusters in private.
Other measures which the Home Office intends to bring forward within weeks include:
- stopping knives being sent to residential addresses after they are bought online
- changing the legal definition for threatening with an offensive weapon to make prosecutions easier
- banning the possession of a knife on a further education premises
- banning rapid firing rifles, and certain powerful firearms and bump stocks, which increase a rifle’s rate of fire
- updating the definition of a flick knife to reflect changing weapon designs
- preventing sales of acids to under 18's
To see the full announcement go to Gov.uk
Copies of the legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed at OPSI.
This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help both consumers and also businesses which supply age restricted products to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.
For further information, contact the Trading Standards Service, Public Safety, Regulation and Development, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH.
Phone: 0191 2116121