Buying Alcohol and Cigarettes For Under 18's

You’re on your way into the a shop and a group of young people are hanging about trying to get adults to buy them cigarettes or booze.

They don’t have ID and say they’ll give you cash to buy stuff for them. What do you do?

Drinking underage

There are good reasons why buying alcohol is illegal for under-18s.

Alcohol use during the teenage years is related to a wide range of health and social problems. It can be harmful to children and young people, with health risks including the possibility of alcohol poisoning, or of being involved in violence and of ending up in vulnerable or dangerous situations.

Drinking regularly during childhood and young adulthood can cause permanent brain and liver damage to these developing organs. It has also been shown to affect how well some young people do at school, which can result in lifelong negative impact on their potential.

People who start drinking regularly at a young age are also more likely to have alcohol related problems as an adult.

Find out more about the effects of drinking underage from Drink Aware.

Smoking underage

You must be over 18 to buy cigarettes in the UK.

If you’re under 16 the police have the right to confiscate your cigarettes.

Smoking can be a difficult and addictive habit, Childline says,

Starting to smoke when you’re young can lead to a habit that will last your whole life. It can be extremely difficult to stop. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine works just like addictive drugs such as heroin. It makes the body and mind become used to having it. You start to need nicotine in order to feel normal. Smoking is also expensive. You might find yourself spending all your spare money on cigarettes or tobacco. If you quit you’ll probably find you have a lot more money to spend on other things.

There are a lot of health risks associated with smoking tobacco; these include an increased risk of cancer, heart and lung disease, effects on sexual health and effects on mental health.

Buying alcohol or cigarettes for someone else

It is illegal to buy or sell alcohol or cigarettes to someone under the age of 18.

Anyone convicted of illegally supplying alcohol or cigarettes to someone under 18 would face a criminal record and could have to pay a hefty fine. This applies to people running or working in a pub or shop, a parent or guardian, or anyone else.

Having a criminal record can affect your future, such as if you wanted to travel to other countries, or when applying for jobs.

Smoking, vaping and alcohol can all affect your mental and physical health.

More information

  • Find out more about smoking and the law
  • Check out more info on Not A Favour about the impacts of buying alcohol and cigarettes for people who are underage. 

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