Have you ever been approached by a young person asking you to buy alcohol or tobacco on their behalf? What would you do in this situation? If they’re asking, it’s likely that they’re under the legal age and know that they will be refused service if they try to buy age restricted items themselves.
When an adult buys an age-restricted product for someone underage, this is called proxy selling. This is a criminal offence. Many businesses are trained to look out for this, and if you do get caught buying alcohol or tobacco products to anyone under the legal age, you could receive an on-the-spot fine of £90 or face criminal prosecution with substantial fines and a criminal record.
Some products, such as e-liquids and alcopops are particularly attractive to young people. To avoid receiving a fine or being prosecuted, you should ensure that you do not supply the following goods to underage people:
- Tobacco products (including loose tobacco, papers and any substitute for tobacco)
- E-cigarettes, vapes & e-liquids
According to a study done by the NHS, 70% of 11-15 year olds who drank alcohol had it given to them by parents, 54% had it given to them by friends, and 37% had it bought for them by someone else.
Michael Davison from Trading Standards South West said, “If you are under 18, asking friends or family to buy alcohol or tobacco products could result in both of you facing a fine and possible prosecution.”
Trained staff can reduce the risk to young people by being vigilant and refusing a sale when they suspect that an adult may be buying age-restricted products on behalf of someone underage. Trading Standards South West (TSSW) have developed an online interactive toolkit called No Proof of Age – No Sale (www.npoans.org.uk) to help train staff on underage sales prevention, including guidance on how to prevent proxy sales.