Solvent abuse is the inhaling (sniffing) of fumes given off by a wide range of solvent based products, cigarette lighter refills and aerosols.
This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law.
It is an offence to supply or offer to supply any intoxicating substances to a person under the age of 18 where the shopkeeper may reasonably believe that the product will be used for intoxication.
It is also an offence to supply butane gas such as a cigarette lighter refills containing butane to any person under the age of 18. This is irrespective to whether the seller knew or suspected it was likely to be abused.
The penalty for breaking this law or the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 is a maximum fine of £5000 or up to 6 months in prison or both.
Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985/The Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations 1999
The law requires you to take 'all reasonable precautions' not to sell to under 18's.
You can move affected products to the till area so that more control is possible.
Display signs around your premises so that customers are aware of the law and the shop's position. Stickers are available from Re-Solv on 0808 800 2345.
You can alert your staff to under age sales and train them. You and your staff must know the law and feel confident in refusing sales if they know or suspect the product is going to be abused.
Consider keeping a refusals log book to record any refusals you or your staff make, not only for solvents but any age restricted products.
Ask for age identification, and check it. Normally accepted forms of identification are
All products can be dangerous if they are misused. The products currently responsible for most deaths are butane gas cigarette lighter refills.
In 2001 they were linked to 66% of all volatile solvent abuse deaths, an increase from 52% in 2000, with under-18 year olds accounting for 36% of these deaths.
This doesn't mean that other products, such as aerosols and adhesives are less dangerous. If you are in any doubt about the intended use of the product - the sale should be refused.
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For help with any Trading Standards legislation, contact your nearest office.
This information in available in larger print or translated into any language on request.
Ref B/Sol/119/03 October 2003