Press releases

Retailers and under 18s warned of new tobacco law

Trading Standards services across the UK are responsible for enforcing the laws relating to age-restricted products, including tobacco.

Retailers are being advised that from 01 October, it will be illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.

Selling tobacco to anyone under-age can result in a fine of up to £2,500 and failing to display a sign stating the age restrictions on tobacco can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

From 1 October, 18 and 19 year olds may increasingly be asked to prove their age when buying cigarettes. Acceptable forms of ID are passport, photo driving licence or a proof of age card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) hologram.

Bryan Lewin, Chairman of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) said: "We believe that raising the age limit to 18 is a positive move in making it more difficult for young people to regularly get their hands on cigarettes.

"TSI has been campaigning for this change for some time now and we're looking forward to the implementation and the anticipated improvements in young people's long-term health that it will bring.

"We do appreciate shopkeepers may have difficulties with some young people who have been buying cigarettes legally until the age change.

"Trading Standards officers should demonstrate a proportionate response to any infringements and will take into account all factors when deciding what action to take. Our first line should be to inform and educate."

Brandon Cook, TSI joint lead on age restricted sales, said: "We do an enormous amount of work to help educate and inform retailers of their responsibility to comply with the law on age-restricted products."

"A major concern is that our test purchasing activities across the country clearly demonstrate that high numbers of retailers persist in selling cigarettes to children aged 14 and under. Often they argue they find it hard to tell someone's age - which is why we advise them to insist on seeing photo identification.

"Retailers are advised to adopt the Challenge 21 initiative where any person who appears to be under the age of 21 is asked to produce appropriate ID. This will ensure that all traders fulfil their responsibility to comply with the law," he added.

Cllr Geoffrey Theobald OBE, Chairman of LACORS, said:

"We wholeheartedly support the government's decision to raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 18 years. Not only will this bring the age limit in line with a number of other age restricted goods such as alcohol, fireworks and gas lighter refills for which council trading standards already have responsibility, it will also make life easier for retailers in complying with the law."

"Education and awareness have been key to ensuring that the change goes smoothly and that everybody concerned understands the new law. With the help of guidance from LACORS, trading standards officers have been working with retailers across England and Wales to provide them with all the relevant information ahead of 1 October."

If retailers have not received information packs or would like help in understanding what the new law will mean for them, they should contact their local authority trading standards service.

For more information contact TSI Press Office on 0845 608 9430

Notes to Editors

  • Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, loose rolling tobacco and rolling paper and the law applies to both over the counter and vending machine sales. Retailers will need to display a sign clearly stating the age restriction on tobacco products.
  • The Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) is the UK's national guarantee scheme for proof-of-age cards. The scheme was launched to bring in a common standard, an easily recognisable identity and a robust accreditation process to help protect retailers of age-related sales, and their employees from the myriad of fake cards used throughout the country.

The PASS hologram on a card is the hallmark indicating that the card issuer has passed a stringent and rigorous audit process carried out by Trading standards officers and that the card may be relied upon.

  • The Department of Health have been working with retailers and teenagers to raise awareness of the new age restrictions and prepare them for the change, as part of a nationwide campaign. For full details log on to Tobacco Age Change.
    • The Scottish Government has changed the age limit for the sale of tobacco and cigarettes in Scotland from 16 to 18 years. This comes into force on the same day as the changes in England & Wales 1 October 2007.

    The Public Health & Wellbeing Directorate of the Scottish Government, working together with trading standards services in Scotland, has issued information packs to all known retailers advising them of the change in the law. Further information, signs and posters for display in shops and on vending machines are available from the Scottish Government website at

  • The "Challenge 21" initiative encourages retailers and licences to seek proof of age from anybody who appears to be under the age of 21.

The scheme was introduced because it was recognised that it can be very difficult to assess the age of a young person and to identify accurately whether someone is 17, 18, 19 or 20 but is usually easier to determine whether someone is 21. If a retailer suspects a young person is under 21 years old, then identification should be requested.

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.

LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) is the local government central body responsible for overseeing local authority regulatory and related services. These services range from protecting consumers against illegal doorstop selling to checking hygiene standards in restaurants and food factories to alcohol and public entertainment licensing.