Sale of Age Restricted Goods

Age restricted products

Legislation prohibits the sale, supply, offer to supply or hire of specified products to persons under the minimum legal age.

  • There are age restrictions (under the age of 18) applicable to tobacco products, nicotine vapour products, offensive weapons (knives and similar), crossbows, adult fireworks, airguns, lighter refills containing butane and alcohol.
  • There are age restrictions (under the age of 16) applicable to category 1 fireworks (party poppers and similar fireworks), lottery tickets, aerosol paint and liqueur confectionery.
  • The age restriction for Christmas crackers is 12.
  • There are different age restrictions on videos, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs (collectively referred to here as 'video recordings' - 12 and over, 15 and over, and 18 and over) and video games (12 and over, 16 and over, and 18 and over).

The different pieces of legislation also give requirements for certain warnings and notices to be displayed when selling particular products.

Some of the legislation has defences available, namely that the accused took all reasonable precautions, and exercised all due diligence, to avoid committing an offence. Traders should always ask young people to produce proof of their age.

In many instances both the staff member who made the sale and the owner of the business can be held liable for any sale made.

Acceptable proof of age is recognised as a European Driving Licence, Passport or the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) e.g. Young Scot or similar card which carries the PASS hologram. Good practice to demonstrate due diligence would be to record instances where there are refusals of restricted products to underage purchasers on a refusal sales sheet or a refusals book. Another way to demonstrate due diligence would  be to adopt a Think 25 policy, such as Challenge 25, which means that if the young person looks under 25 they are required to provide identification to prove that they are over 18.

Find out more about Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour Products and Children or Cigarette lighter refills and solvents.

Nicotine vapour products are commonly known as e-cigarettes and similar. 

Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour products (NVP's) and children

Cigarettes must only be sold in quantities of at least 10 and in their original packaging. A notice must be displayed which states “It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18”.

Acceptable forms of identification when purchasing tobacco are:

  • a Defence Identity Card;
  • a photographic identity card bearing the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram;
  • an EU national identity card; or
  • Biometric Immigration Document.

The new Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010  was passed by the Scottish parliament on 27 January 2010. The Act contains measures aimed specifically at reducing the attractiveness and availaiblity of tobacco to persons under 18.

The Act:

  • bans the sale of tobacco from vending machines;
  • introduces a tobacco sales registration scheme, which will be free for retailers to join;
  • makes it an offence for under 18s to attempt to purchase tobacco;
  • makes it an offence for adults to buy tobacco on behalf of under 18s (known as proxy purchase);
  • gives trading standards officers powers to issue fixed penalty notices, and ;
  • gives courts the power to ban retailers from selling tobacco where they have repeatedly broken the law.

The Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 was approved by Parliament on 3 March 2016 and the Act includes the following measures in relation to tobacco and NVPs:

  • Introduces the offence of selling an NVP to a person under the age of 18;
  • Introduces the offence of failing to operate an age verification policy at premises where tobacco products or NVPs are offered for sale;
  • Introduces the offence of allowing a tobacco product, cigarette papers or an NVP to be sold by a person under the age of 18 without authorisation;
  • Provides powers to introduce the offence of selling a NVP from a vending machine;
  • Introduces the offence of carrying on a NVP business whilst unregistered or from unregistered premises;
  • Provided for a due diligence defence against certain tobacco products and NVP related offences;
  • Makes it an offence for a person aged 18 or over to purchase a NVP for someone under the age of 18 (‘commonly known as proxy purchase;
  • Provides powers to make regulations prohibiting or restricting a sponsorship agreement which promotes NVPs and to make related offences;

Retailers who sell nicotine vapour products, tobacco, or both  must  be registered by 1 October 2017.

Retailers who sell tobacco products only should already be registered.

Retailers who sell nicotine vapour products can register a new premises or update an existing premise from 1st April 2017

The register and further guidance is available via this link Scottish Register

Cigarette lighter refills and solvents

The Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations 1999 make it an offence to supply any cigarette lighter refill canister containing butane or a substance with butane as a constituent to any person under the age of 18. In Scotland, common law makes it an offence to recklessly supply substances to people of any age, knowing that they are to be used for the purpose of abuse.

Household products classed as solvents and commonly abused include marker pens, aerosols, anti-freeze and nail varnish. Obvious signs of an abuser include the smell of solvents, slurred speech and spots/sores around the mouth.

Spray Paints

It is a criminal offence to sell an aerosol paint container, i.e. spray paint stored under pressure, to anyone under the age of 16. The Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 also requires a notice to be displayed in a prominent position at all retail premises selling spray paints stating: “It is illegal to sell a spray paint device to anyone under the age of 16". This part of a strategy aimed at reducing the incidence of graffiti in Scotland.