In the guide

This guidance is for England and Wales

It is a criminal offence to sell an aerosol paint container to anyone under the age of 16.

There are measures you should put in place to avoid selling to under-16s. These include carrying out age-verification checks and regular staff training.

Anti-social behaviour and aerosol spray paint

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 addresses the problem of spray-painted graffiti, recognising that graffiti can contribute to the fear of crime. Research has shown that graffiti, litter and general degradation of a neighbourhood disproportionately affect people's sense of safety and security. Local authorities spend considerable sums of money every year removing graffiti, with varying degrees of success.

Back to top

The law

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 deals with the sale of aerosol paint to children:

  • an aerosol paint container is a device that contains paint stored under pressure and is designed to permit the release of the paint as a spray
  • a person commits an offence if they sell an aerosol paint container to a person under 16
  • the owner of the business, as well as the person who made the sale, may be liable if a sale of an aerosol paint container is made to a person under16
Back to top


If you are charged with an offence of selling an aerosol paint container to a person under 16, you have the defence that you took all reasonable steps to find out the buyer's age and that you reasonably believed that the buyer was not under 16.

If you, as the owner of the business, are charged with an offence because someone working in your premises sold an aerosol paint container to a person under 16, you have the defence that you took all reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence.

Back to top

Keeping within the law

In order to keep within the law and satisfy the legal defences, you are advised to introduce an age-verification policy and have effective systems in place to prevent sales to under-16s. To ensure these systems stay effective, they need to be regularly monitored and updated (where necessary) to identify and put right any problems or weaknesses, and to keep pace with any advances in technology.

Key best practice features of an effective system include the following.

Age verification checks

Always ask young people to produce proof of their age. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute, the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs' Council support the UK's national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS), which includes a number of card issuers. You can be confident that a card issued under the scheme and bearing the PASS hologram is an acceptable proof of age.

A photo driving licence or passport are also acceptable but make sure that the card matches the person using it and the date of birth shows they are at least 16. Military identification cards can be used as proof of age, but (as with other forms of identification) make sure the photo matches the person presenting the card and check the date of birth.

You do not have to accept all of the above forms of identification and it may be best to exclude any type of document that your staff are not familiar with.

Some young people may present false identification cards so it is advisable to also check the look and feel of a card. For example, the PASS hologram must be an integral part of a PASS card and not an add-on.

If the person cannot prove that they are at least the minimum legal age - or if you are in any doubt - refuse the sale.

Please see the Home Office False ID Guidance for more information.

Operate a Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 system

This means that if the person appears to be under 21 or 25, they will be asked to verify that they are 16 or over by showing valid proof of age.

Staff training

Make sure your staff are properly trained. They need to know which products are age restricted, what the age restriction is and the action they must take if they believe a person under 16 is attempting to buy. It is important that you can prove your staff have understood what is required of them under the legislation. This can be done by keeping a record of the training and asking members of staff to sign to say that they have understood it. These records can then be checked and signed on a regular basis by management or the owner.

Maintain a refusals log

It is best practice to record all refusals (date, time, incident, description of potential buyer). Maintaining a refusals log will help to demonstrate that you actively refuse sales and have an effective system in place. It is advisable that the manager / owner checks the log to ensure that all members of staff are using it.

A specimen refusals log is attached.

Some tills have a refusals system built in. If you use a till-based system, ensure that refusals can be retrieved at a later date. Be aware that some refusals are made before a product is scanned.

Till prompts

If you possess an EPoS system, it may be possible to use it to remind staff of age restrictions via a prompt. Alternatively, stickers can be used over certain product barcodes.


Display posters showing age limits and a statement regarding the refusal of such sales. This may deter potential purchasers and act as a reminder to staff.

Store and product layout

Identify the age-restricted products in your store and consider moving them nearer to the counter, or even behind it. Consider displaying dummy packs so that people have to ask for the products if they want to buy them.

Closed circuit television (CCTV)

A CCTV system may act as a deterrent and reduce the number of incidents of underage sales. It will also help you to monitor 'blind spots' within your store if it is not possible to change the layout or relocate the products behind, or closer to, the counter.

Online sales

If you sell by distance means, such as online, you must set up an effective system capable of verifying the age of potential purchasers. Please see 'Online sales of age-restricted products' for more information.

Back to top

Trading Standards

For more information on the work of Trading Standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading Standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.

Back to top

In this update

No major changes.

Last reviewed / updated: April 2024

Back to top

Key legislation

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links often only shows the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on changes to legislation can be found by following the above links and clicking on the 'More Resources' tab.

What type of feedback would you like to leave
1a-User type
2a-User type
3a-User type
4a-User type

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.

How many years have you been trading?
How many employees are there in your business?

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.

Are you satisfied? Did this site answer your question?