Underage Sales

Solvent Abuse

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.

Sales of Intoxicating Substances (Solvents)

Solvents image

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.

    • Butane gas cigarette lighter refills
    • Liquefied domestic gas
    • Solvent based adhesives
    • Deodorant aerosols
    • Pain relief sprays
    • Aerosol air fresheners
    • Hairspray
    • Other aerosols
    • Some typewriter correction fluids
    • Petrol
    • Certain paints, paint thinners and remover
    • Dry-cleaning agent
    • Petrol Lighter fuel
    • Nail varnish and varnish remover
    • Shoe and metal polish
    • Plaster remover

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.

How can you recognize if someone is an abuser?

  • the smell of glue or solvents on the person's clothes
  • slurred speech or behaviour similar to drunkenness
  • the frequent purchase or bulk purchase of solvents by a customer
  • the purchase of plastic bags and solvents at the same time


Help us stamp out underage sales of age restricted products

Trading Standards
Montgomery House
Monarch Way
Winchester SO22 5PW

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