In the guide

There are laws that restrict the sale of certain products and services to underage people

This guide introduces you to these age-restricted products and services and the minimum age of the young people you can legally sell them to.

You will also find essential information on what you can do to prevent the sale of age-restricted products and services to underage people and stay on the right side of the law.

Minimum legal age

There are many laws that deal with the sale of age-restricted products and services. For some products, such as alcohol, you are required to obtain a licence before you can legally sell them.

To help you to work out which laws you need to comply with, first check the table below to see if there are any products or services you sell or intend to sell that are age restricted and what the age restriction is.

There are no age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks, but retailers may voluntarily choose to have a policy that restricts their sale to those over a certain age.

Most products have corresponding In-depth Guides in which you can find out more information (see below).

Age restrictions of products
Goods Age restriction
Adult fireworks and sparklers (category F2 [outdoor use: confined areas] and category F3 [outdoor use: large open areas] fireworks) 18 and over
Aerosol paint 16 and over
Alcohol 18 and over
Animals 16 and over
Botulinum toxin (Botox) and cosmetic fillers (England only) 18 and over
Christmas crackers 12 and over
Corrosive substances 18 and over
Crossbows 18 and over
Knives / axes / blades 18 and over (in Scotland domestic knives can be sold to those aged 16 and over)
Lighter refills containing butane 18 and over
Liqueur confectionery (Scotland only) 16 and over
Lottery draw-based and instant-win (such as scratchcards and online instant win) games 18 and over
Nicotine inhaling products (known as nicotine vapour products in Scotland) 18 and over
Party poppers and similar low-hazard low-noise fireworks (category F1) (except Christmas crackers) 16 and over
Petrol 16 and over
Sunbeds 18 and over
Tobacco 18 and over
Video recordings: U (universal) unrestricted
Video recordings: PG (parental guidance) unrestricted
Video recordings: classification 12 12 and over
Video recordings: classification 15 15 and over
Video recordings: classification 18 18 and over
Video recordings: classification R18 18 years and over in a licensed sex shop
Video games: PEGI rating 3 unrestricted
Video games: PEGI rating 7 unrestricted
Video games: PEGI rating 12 12 and over
Video games: PEGI rating 16 16 and over
Video games: PEGI rating 18 18 and over
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Taking steps to prevent underage sales

If you sell age-restricted products to a person under the minimum legal age, you may commit an offence under the relevant law. The penalties can include a fine or even imprisonment. There are laws that give you a legal defence, which is often referred to as the 'due diligence' defence.

Basically you must prove that you took 'all reasonable precautions / all reasonable steps' and exercised 'all due diligence' to avoid committing an offence.

This means that you are responsible for making sure that you and your staff do not sell age-restricted products to people under the minimum legal age. You can do this by setting up effective systems within your business.

These systems should be regularly monitored and updated as necessary to identify and put right any problems or weaknesses, or to keep pace with any advances in technology.

Key best-practice features of an effective system include:

  • age verification checks. Verify the age of potential buyers by asking to see an identity card that bears the PASS hologram (the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) is the UK's national proof-of-age accreditation scheme supported by the Home Office, the Scottish Government, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Police Scotland and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). The Scottish Government also endorses the Young Scot card
  • Challenge 21 / Challenge 25. In England and Wales you can participate - or must participate as a licensing condition if you sell alcohol - in a scheme to carry out age verification checks on anyone who looks younger than 21 or 25. When selling alcohol, tobacco or nicotine vapour products in Scotland it is a legal requirement to check the age of any customer who appears to be under 25
  • staff training. Make sure your staff receive adequate training on underage sales. Keep a training record and make sure the training is regularly updated
  • use of till prompts. You can use prompts that appear on the till when an age-restricted product is scanned to remind staff to carry out age verification checks
  • store layout, signage and CCTV. Keep your age-restricted products where they can be monitored by staff. For example, fireworks stored on the shop floor must by law be kept in a secure cabinet. Ensure you have adequate signs to inform consumers of the minimum legal age to purchase. You are legally required to display notices for tobacco and fireworks
  • keep and maintain a refusals register. This means keeping a record (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer) where sales of age-restricted products have been refused. This helps to demonstrate that you actively refuse sales and have an effective system in place

You will find more information on effective 'due diligence' systems in the In-depth Guides on age-restricted products.

For more detailed information please see the In-depth Guides below. Once you've finished, make sure you look at the full range of Quick Guides to see whether there are any other areas of law that affect your business.

Before you start
Make sure you choose your location using the drop-down list at the top of the page. The In-depth Guides provide country-specific information as some laws are different in England, Scotland and Wales, and some are enforced differently.

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In-depth guidance

This is a general guide and you may well need to know more; take a look below where we've listed our In-depth Guides on specific topics related to underage sales


Tobacco and vapes

The law requires that tobacco and vapes are not sold to under-18s; it also prohibits the in-store display of tobacco products

Online sales of age-restricted products

Selling certain goods to young people is illegal; understand your obligations as an online retailer

Aerosol spray paints

What the law says about the sale of spray paints to people under 16

Alcohol: age restrictions

A guide to ensuring that underage sales of alcohol do not take place, and the implications if a sale is made

Cigarette lighter refills

If you supply cigarette lighter refill canisters containing butane, you must be sure your customers are not underage

Crossbows, air weapons and imitation firearms

Crossbows, air weapons and imitation firearms must not be sold to underage customers

Fireworks: age restrictions

When selling fireworks, you must be sure that your customers are not underage

Knives, other bladed items and corrosive substances

Certain bladed articles, bladed products and corrosive substances are covered by legislation that restricts purchase by and delivery to under-18s


Sunbed businesses must comply with the legal age restrictions, which were introduced because the young are at greater risk of developing skin cancer

Video recordings and games for sale and hire

Understand the labelling and age of sale requirements for the supply, hire or exchange of all videos and games

Botox and cosmetic fillers

Botox and cosmetic fillers must not be given to under-18s

Selling petrol and diesel from forecourts

It is essential that petrol and diesel (known as 'liquid fuels') are sold to the public and business users on forecourts using approved, accurate equipment and approved point-of-sale systems

Storage and supply of fireworks

There are detailed requirements regarding the storage and retail supply of fireworks, including licensing and the times of the year when they can be supplied

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Consumer enquiries from England, Scotland and Wales are handled by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service who can be contacted by telephone on 03454 04 05 06. Consumer enquiries in Northern Ireland are handled by ConsumerLine who can be contacted by telephone on 0300 1236262. Call charges may vary.

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Business enquiries are dealt with by your local council. Use the Chartered Trading Standards Institute's postcode finder to locate your local trading standards team.

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