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Trading Standards - Underage Sales Restrictions

It is illegal to sell cigarettes, or any tobacco product, from an automatic vending machine in England - regardless of age. For more information download the guidance note attached below.

Trading Standards is responsible for enforcing the laws that protect young people by setting age restrictions for the sale of certain products. Some of the goods which have age restrictions are set out in the table below with the applicable age restriction.

Age Restricted products

16 years old

National lottery tickets
Scratch cards
Cracker snaps
Novelty matches
Party poppers
Throw downs
Aerosol spray paints
Jumbo markers

18 years old

Cigarette papers
Rolling machines
Other tobacco products

For the sale of tobacco products a statutory shop notice should be on display. Copies of the notice are attached below.

For the sale of fireworks products, a statutory shop notice should be on display. Copies of the notice are available from the Fire Service. You also require a license. For the guidance around applying for a licence which includes the application form (ER1) go to HSE website Explosives licence with information Pack. Traders can send any enquires or any completed application forms into administration@wmfs.net or into Headquarters - address: Administaration Team, West Midlands Fire Service, 99 Vauxhall Road, Birmingham, B7 4HW. They can also be contacted on Tel No: 0121 380 6067.

If you sell age restricted products you need to take precautions to avoid breaking the law you should:-
  • Train your staff and keep records of all training. Ask staff to sign the training records to confirm that they have received the training.
  • The training should ensure that staff are aware of proof of age cards and ask for them if they are unsure of a customer's age.
  • Display the statutory warning notices for cigarettes and fireworks.
  • Consider other warning notices for customers and reminders for staff.
  • Keep a Refusal Book and instruct staff to record when they refuse to sell a restricted product. (Copy of a refusals register is attached below).
  • Refuse to sell to anyone whose age you are unsure of.

Trading Standards provide comprehensive advice for businesses. Remember that both the manager/owner of the business and the employeee who sells an age restricted product, may be liable to prosecution for an illegal sale. For a 'No ID - No Sale' poster to display in your shop, please see below.

Test Purchases on Shops

We conduct checks on businesses, using child volunteers, to establish those traders who are selling these goods to those who are underage. The checks, which are carried out using strict national guidelines, are undertaken to ensure traders are complying with the law. If a trader sold to the child volunteer, then an investigation will take place which may involve legal action being taken.


If you are aged between 13 and 16 years and would be interested in volunteering to take part in such an exercise, contact Trading Standards via our Trading Standards Contact page, and we will arrange a meeting with your parents/guardian. For more information about what is involved, see our underage sales checks page.

Niche Tobacco Products Directory

The Niche Tobacco Products Directory (NTPD) has been launched by Local Government Regulation. It provides a good source of reference material and will help those organisations which regulate this market. NTPD is supported by both the Department of Health and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as an aid for regulators, health professionals and businesses offering advice and information about the diverse nature of niche tobacco products and the legislation that applies to them.

Preventing Illegal Sales

Birmingham Trading Standards have joined forces with the Department of Health to prevent illegal sales in Birmingham. This is aimed at any trader who sells tobacco or alcohol in Birmingham. We are carrying out visits to traders to issue information packs which provides information on age restricted sales, related health issues, smokefree legislation, what to do to comply with the law and also how to avoid buying illicit goods which could be passed on to other consumers. The pack is available to download and can be found at the bottom of this page.

Report the sale of age restricted products

If you would like to report a trader for selling to underage persons or you would like more information about this matter, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0345 404 0506.

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