Roger Smith, who runs Bapchild Service Centre at Sittingbourne in Kent, got quite wound up when he read the ‘No ID, No Sale’ info packs left by his cigarette merchandiser as part of a campaign to stamp out sales of restricted goods to the under-aged. The fact sheet spells out which goods are restricted and includes the information that the fine for allowing an under 18 to sell petrol was £5,000 and/or six months in prison.

He rang me because I had just written in the January issue that it was okay for 16/17 year olds to sell petrol so long as they were supervised. “I’ve just taken on a 17 year old,” he told me. “Am I about to do six months at Her Majesty’s pleasure?” This prompted a chain reaction. I rang Imperial Tobacco to tell them that, supervised, under 18s can sell petrol. Imperial told the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, who told CitizenCard, who checked with Trading Standards. Everybody got the wind up because a hundred thousand of these fact sheets had been printed! But it turns out that the poster is correct insofar as it reads literally. It is indeed against the law for anyone under 18 to sell petrol (you need to mentally insert the phrase ‘by themselves’ in here).

I’m sorry for putting the wind up organisations who are doing their best to save retailers’ butts from getting kicked by TSOs, and if you are among the thousands of retailers who have been sent one of these packs, use it in good faith. And remind your staff to use the refusals book included in the pack. Due diligence, as shown by operating a refusals book, is your only form of defence should you get caught out.