Cigarette lighter refills and solvents
Solvent abuse is the inhaling (sniffing) of fumes given off by a wide range of solvent-based products, including cigarette lighter refills and aerosols. The supply of these products to people under the age of 18 is controlled by the Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations 1999 and the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985. The penalties for offences under this legislation are a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six months' imprisonment.
Marker pens, aerosols, anti-freeze and nail varnish are household products that are classed as solvents and can be abused. Obvious signs of an abuser include the smell of solvents, slurred speech and spots/sores around the mouth.
There are steps traders can take including refusing such sales to under 18s, asking for proof of age, recording refused sales, and training staff.
In the guide
The Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 makes it an offence to supply, or offer to supply, a substance to a person who you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is under the age of 18 and if you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, the substance is, or its fumes are, likely to be inhaled by that person to cause intoxication. An offence also exists where you supply, or offer to supply, to a person who you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is acting on behalf of someone under the age of 18 and you know, or have reasonable cause to believe, that the substance is, or its fumes are, likely to be inhaled by a someone under the age of 18 to cause intoxification.
If you are convicted of an offence under the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, the penalty is up to six months' imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
Enforcement of the law
What is an intoxicating substance?
This list is not exhaustive and there are many more products open to abuse.
[* The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 prohibits the sale of aerosol paint to persons under the age of 16. See our leaflet 'Sales of aerosol spray paints'.]
How you can recognise if someone is an abuser?
Other indications that you must be alert to are:
However, solvents may be sold to persons under the age of 18 for their normal intended use.
Keeping within the law
Always ask young people to produce proof of their age. Trading standards services and the government support the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS). You can be confident that a card issued under the scheme and bearing the PASS hologram is an acceptable proof of age. There are a number of card issuers in the scheme. A driving licence photocard or passport is also acceptable.
Keep a book to record details of refused sales.
Identify the sensitive products in your shop and consider moving your displays of glues and solvents nearer to the counter.
Display dummy packs or place such items behind the counter, so that people have to ask for them.
Make your staff aware of the solvent-based products in your shop and advise them on the action they must take. It is important that you can prove that your staff have understood what is required of them under the legislation. This can be done by keeping a record of the training and asking the member of staff to sign to say that they have understood it. These records should then be checked and signed on a regular basis by management or the owner.
All refusals should be recorded on a refusal sales sheet or a refusal book. Some tills have a refusals system built in. Maintaining a refusal log will strengthen any defence you may have. Logs should be checked by the manager/owner to ensure that all members of staff are using them. A specimen refusal log is attached below.
If you possess an EPoS system, it may be possible to use it to remind staff of age restrictions via a prompt. Alternatively, stickers can be used over certain product bar codes.
Display posters showing age limits and a statement regarding the refusal of such sales. This may deter potential purchasers and act as a reminder to staff.
Last reviewed/updated: February 2013
London Boroughs of Brent and Harrow, Trading Standards Service,