Age limits – buying things

It is illegal for businesses in the UK to sell you certain things until you reach a particular age, normally 16 or 18.Generally, the rules are designed to protect young people’s health or well-being. These are the main current rules:

Aerosol paint 

It is illegal to sell aerosol paint to anyone under 16.

Alcohol

It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18 – see more about the complicated alcohol buying and drinking laws here.

Cigarettes

It is illegal to sell cigarettes, tobacco or cigarette papers to anyone under 18. (There is no age limit for smoking in your own house but it will ruin your health; police officers can confiscate cigarettes from you if you’re smoking in a public place and look as though you’re under 16.)

DVDs, videos, Blu-rays

It is illegal for a business to sell or rent DVDs, videos or Blu-rays which have a 12, 15 or 18 classification to people under the specified age. (The law does not prevent you watching these at home, but consider the classification and use your good sense and judgement. We have included the classifications on our list of recommended films to help you.)

Computer games

It is illegal for a business to supply a game classified 12, 16 or 18 to anyone under the specified age.

Fireworks

It is illegal to sell most fireworks to anyone under 18 (some, such as party poppers and crackers can be sold to anyone 16 or over).

Knives

It is illegal to sell knives (except folding pocket knives with blades below a certain size) to anyone under 18.

Lighter refills

It is illegal to sell cigarette lighter refill canisters containing butane to anyone under 18.

Lottery tickets

It is illegal to sell a National Lottery (Lotto) or Instant Win (Scratchcard) ticket to anyone under 16.

Solvents

It is illegal to sell solvents (such as glue) to anyone under 18 if the retailer suspects you are going to use them for glue-sniffing.

You might also be interested in our pages on:

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Age limits – buying and drinking alcohol

as well as our other pages on age limits:

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Understand age limits