Tobacco Products

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The Environmental Health Section proactively ensures tobacco retailers are aware of the requirements not to display and/or sell tobacco products to those under 18. As well as advisory visits to businesses, staff also carry out test purchase initiatives of tobacco products by under age children to check that retailers are complying with their responsibilities. Please see the section Good Practice Advice and Guidance (can a hyperlink to this section be created?) for further information.

It is illegal to display and/or sell Tobacco Products to anyone under 18. Anyone who displays tobacco products to anyone under 18 can be fined up to £5000 and/or face up to 2 years imprisonment. Anyone who sells tobacco products including cigarette papers to anyone under 18 can be fined up to £2,500 and/or face up to 6 months imprisonment.

Warning notices must be displayed in tobacco retailers stating ‘it is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.’ (Click here for poster)(Hyperlink to statutory poster: Anyone selling tobacco and not displaying the notice can be fined up to £1,000.

Cigarettes must be sold in their packs: retailers breaking a pack and selling single cigarettes to any person can be fined up to £1,000.

Tobacco Display Ban

From the 6 April 2015 the law changed to prevent the display of tobacco products in all retailers of tobacco. Retailers are not allowed to have tobacco products on sale in public view. The new law will also place controls on how prices are displayed. The new controls are being introduced as part of the new Tobacco Control Strategy for Northern Ireland and is one initiative among many being delivered to help to reduce smoking uptake by young people and to support adult smokers who want to quit.

Where appropriate, age checks must be carried out before any tobacco product is shown to a customer who asks to buy tobacco or asks for information about a tobacco product.

As a retailer you will be permitted to temporarily display tobacco products in the following circumstances:

a.    Following requests to purchase tobacco products by customers over 18 (known as “Requested Displays”)
b.    Incidental displays while staff are actively:

  • Assessing stock levels for the purpose of stock control
  • Restocking
  • Undertaking staff training
  • Cleaning, maintaining or refurbishing the storage unit

c.    Following a request by an enforcement officer

Anyone who displays tobacco products to anyone under 18 can be fined up to £5000 and/or face up to 2 years imprisonment.

Vending Machines

From the 1st March 2012, it became illegal to sell cigarettes (or any other tobacco product) directly from an automatic vending machine and against the law to display advertisements or pictures of tobacco products on vending machines.

Businesses can still provide the service as the vending machine may, for example, be kept behind the bar or in a store room, provided that members of the public cannot access it.  Staff can dispense the products on request.

Good Practice Advice and Guidance

This section provides further advice and guidance on how to comply with the law.

Age Restricted Goods

You must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any person buying cigarettes is 18 years of age or over. These checks must be carried out before the Tobacco Product is displayed to avoid an illegal display.

Examples of steps that you could take are:

  • Do not sell cigarettes to persons in school uniform
  • Introduce a policy not to sell cigarettes to any person under 18 years of age
  • If you are unsure of a person’s age ask for approved identification (Passport, Driving Licence or ID with a Pass Mark)
  • Ensure that you have a warning notice on display at the point of sale positioned so that it can be clearly seen by your customers.
  • Staff must be trained on any policy or procedures that are in place.

Refusals Register Example

Display Ban Guidance

Retailers Information Booklet

Complaints and Requests

If you require any advice, signage or would like to make a complaint, please contact a member of the Tobacco Control Team on the number below.

Cigarette butts are litter too!

Cigarette ends take 12 years or more to decompose and they can be difficult to clean up from pavement cracks and gratings.  Any person found dropping a butt end could receive a £80 fine for littering so be sure to dispose of your cigarette responsibly.

Help to Stop Smoking

Smokers interested in giving up can call the Smoker's Helpline free on 0800 858585 for friendly help and advice as well as details of local stop smoking support services.  Alternatively speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Information is also available online from

Space to Breathe
Smoke-free Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Planning Service