Trading standards - underage sales

To view our leaflets on age restricted products please click on the link.

On the 1st of October 2007 the law changed which increased the minimum age for the purchase of tobacco from 16 to 18 years old. Therefore it is now against the law to sell tobacco products (including tobacco, cigarette papers and cigars as well as cigarettes) to anyone under the age of 18. All sales are affected, whether from vending machines or over the counter.


You will need to replace your existing tobacco age sign (the statutory notice) with a new one stating for retail sales :-

‘It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18’

As before, the notice must be at least A3 in size (420mm x 297mm) and the letters must be at least 36mm in height. You may well have received a new sign from your supplier of tobacco products, or direct from the Department of Health.

All vending machines need to be labelled with a sign at least 60mm x 100mm in letters at least 6mm high, stating:-

‘This machine is only for the use of people aged 18 or over’

Replacement signs are available from your vending machine provider / operator.

An effective system to prevent underage sales

You should have a system in place to safeguard against underage sales being made. Staff should always ask for proof of age whenever a young person attempts to purchase tobacco products or other age restricted product, and many retailers now adopt a ‘Think 21’ policy whereby anyone under appearing the age of 21 is asked to prove their age.

Further information on acceptable forms of proof of age and other measures you can introduce as part of your system can be found on

Staff Training

Ensure that staff are fully trained in respect of the change in the law, and their responsibilities under it. You should also ensure that staff follow the systems you have in place to avoid underage sales being made. Depending upon the circumstances, both the sales person and the owner of the business can be liable for an illegal sale.

What are the penalties for breaking the law?

On conviction, the maximum penalties are:-

  • £2,500 in respect of an underage sale of tobacco products
  • £1000 in respect of failing to display the statutory notice

How can I report outlets selling age-restricted goods to children?

If you believe that underage sales are occurring at retail outlets, you can report the matter to us quickly by going to and following the link from the underage sales page.

Where can I obtain further guidance?

Should you require any further guidance, please contact Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Public Health and Protection on 01443 425777 or go to to download fact sheets, posters and other resources to assist you in complying with the law.