Tobacco controls are changing rapidly as the government introduce tighter regulations as a part of their tobacco control strategy. The rules on under age sales of tobacco are found in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Act 1991, Children and Families Act 2014 and the Children and Young Persons (Sale of Tobacco) Order 2007.

In summary:

  • It is illegal to sell cigarettes or other forms of tobacco or tobacco products, including cigarette papers, to a person under 18 years.
  • The above offence carries a £2,500 fine in a Magistrates' Court.
  • Vendors of tobacco products must display a statutory notice stating "It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18"
  • The sale of cigarettes or tobacco products from automatic / self service vending machines is prohibited.
  • The use of Tobacco Vending Machines was banned in England on 1st October 2011, in Northern Ireland on 1st March 2012, in Wales on 1st October 2012 and in Scotland on 29th April 2013. 
  • From 6th April 2015, it is illegal to have tobacco products on open display in a retail store. They must be placed in a covered gantry. It is an offence to open the gantry to expose the tobacco to a person aged under 18. It is also an offence to show a person under 18 a tobacco price list (except the A3 size poster that is allowed in store). These offences carry an unlimited fine in a Magistrates' Court. 
  • It is a defence for a person charged with an offence to show that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.
  • It is illegal to sell cigarette lighter refill canisters to people under 18 years - see our section on solvents for more information about this.
  • From 1st October 2015, it is illegal to purchase tobacco for or on behalf of a person aged under 18 (proxy sales)

From 1st October 2015, new restrictions came into force concerning electronic cigarettes (nicotine inhaling devices) which are explained further in our ecigs section.



Failure to display this notice is a criminal offence and carries a £1,000 fine in a Magistrates' Court.