Complying with new legislation prohibiting sales of e-cigarettes to under 18s

17 August 2016

On 1 October 2015 the law changed  in England and Wales making it illegal to sell nicotine-inhaling products, including e-cigarettes, certain component parts and e-liquids that contain nicotine (with certain exceptions for medicines and medical devices), to people under 18. The penalty for this offence is up to £2,500.

The Scottish Government has recently passed the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 which will also make it an offence to sell nicotine-inhaling products to under 18s in Scotland, once the relevant provisions come into force.

Trading Standards recently carried out test purchases in a range of businesses across England to check whether they were complying with the new legislation. The investigation found that 53% of independent pharmacies and 43% of pharmacy chains illegally sold nicotine inhaling products to under 18s during test purchases.

Trading Standards also carried out test purchases in a range of other businesses supplying these products and overall 39% of businesses illegally sold these products during test purchases.

The vast majority of illegal sales across all businesses were for e-liquids containing nicotine (204 illegal sales), with smaller numbers of illegal sales for e-cigarettes (36) and other nicotine-inhaling products (6).

Pharmacy owners selling nicotine-inhaling products must make sure their staff receive appropriate training about the new restrictions and they have systems in place to make sure these products are not illegally sold to people under 18.

Pharmacy professionals also have an important role to play and should work with the pharmacy team to ensure that e-cigarettes are not illegally sold to those under the age of 18.

The Department of Health, MHRA and Chartered Trading Standards Institute have produced a guide for pharmacies in England and Wales on the new regulations, which sets out what pharmacies should do to avoid illegal sales to young people.

The guide also explains that the age of sale regulations provide exemptions for nicotine inhaling products that are licensed as medicines so that they can be made available to persons under 18. Firstly, where the product is a medicine or medical device and is sold/dispensed by a pharmacist in accordance with a valid prescription an e-cigarette could be made available to a person under 18.

Secondly, the regulations also exempt the sale of any nicotine inhaling products licenced as non-prescription medicines where the product is indicated for use by under 18s. The product licence (or Marketing Authorisation) would specify that the product was indicated for the treatment of persons under 18.

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