​E-Cig Age Restrictions: A Guide for Vape Retailers

​E-Cig Age Restrictions: A Guide for Vape Retailers

Published by James Dunworth

Strict age regulations prevent the sale of vaping products to under 18s.

This short guide explains what the legislation is, why you need to comply and best practices to avoid fines or even a criminal record.

Restrictions and penalties

Selling nicotine inhaling products, cartridges containing nicotine or e-liquid containing nicotine to persons under the age of 18 is against the law. There are harsh penalties for companies that break these laws, including:

  • A criminal record for the person who sold to the under-18
  • A fine for the person who sold to the under-18
  • A fine for the company responsible for the sale

Working in a controversial industry, we also have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of the industry. That can be hard at times - for example, when a parent is desperate to buy vaping products for an under-18 who smokes. But the potential fallout from underage sales could lead to both negative press and harsher regulations which could be damaging to harm reduction.

It’s impossible to eliminate the risk, but you can minimise it. And if you do have an accidental sale, your best defence is showing that you have performed due diligence.

Challenge 25/Challenge 21

In our own stores, we implement a Challenge 25 policy, where anyone who looks under the age of 25 should be asked for photo ID.

Challenge 25 builds in a margin of safety - after all, some under-18’s can look a lot older than they actually are. It is also a well-used concept for tobacco and alcohol sales, which means customers are familiar with it. As older customers are often pleasantly surprised to be challenged, the implementation of Challenge 25 is relatively easy.

Acceptable ID includes:

  • Driving Licence
  • Proof of Age Standards (PASS) Card
  • Current Passport


Initial guidance concerning necessary signage was lacking, and in fact, there was some contradictory advice. However, it is an offence not to display a sign for alcohol and tobacco sales, with a fine of £1000 for shops that do not comply. This provides a helpful guide for vape retailers.

Both from a safety point of view and to educate customers, we recommend displaying a poster explaining that sales to under 18’s are banned.

At Orderly Distro, we provide free Challenge 25 posters to vape retailers. If you’d like a copy for your shop, please let your account manager know or get in contact with us at [email protected]

Staff Training

Not only is it essential to train staff to comply with the new regulations, you also need to be able to demonstrate you have done so in order to protect your company from a fine should that staff member break the law. The training should be repeated every six months.

During training, emphasise to staff that selling to under-18s affects them personally, with a fine and criminal record. In our own training, we also point out that they will have secret shoppers coming to their shops, and that failure to comply with the policy is a disciplinary offence.

In summary, staff need to know:

  • which products are age restricted (although we recommend a complete ban on selling any vape products and e-liquid to under-18s, even if nicotine free)
  • what the age restriction is
  • the action they must take if they believe a person under 18 is attempting to buy.

Important: Ensure all staff sign to show they have received the training, and understand the regulations. Keep a record of signed training logs. This will assist with showing your due diligence in complying with the regulations.

Refusals Log

A refusals log enables you to show due diligence. Some till systems allow this to be logged electronically. If you don’t have this you can use a paper refusals log.

Ensure you keep a copy of your refusals log in case of any future challenges. This should be easily available in the shop, both to log refusals and to show if you have an inspection. If you’d like a sample refusals log to use in your own shop, just let us know.

Secret Shopping

To ensure compliance with the regulations, we recommend secret shopping with a young-looking (but over 18!) shopper. This can be time consuming to organise yourself, and it may be more cost effective to do it via a specialist company.