Press Centre


ASDA today (19 July 06) announced that it would be the first retailer in the UK to voluntarily raise the minimum age for customers buying knives and cigarettes* from 16 to 18.

The Challenge 21 scheme, that ASDA participates in, will also be extended. 

Customers who are lucky enough not to look 21, will be asked to provide proof of age to show that they are 18 or over when buying cigarettes and knives at ASDA stores. 

This widens the scheme, which currently includes the sale of alcohol, fireworks and 18 rated dvd’s and computer games.

 ASDA’s decision, which comes into force from 1 September 2006, happens at a time when knife crime is on the increase and laws around smoking are being scrutinised. 

The move falls during the Government’s consultation on proposals to crack down on teenage smoking (1). 



At the same time The Violent Crime Reduction Bill (2), is going through the House of Lords, which includes measures to increase the age at which a person can be sold a knife from 16 to 18. 

“Public opinion is changing in these areas and as a responsible retailer we felt we should do something,” said ASDA’s retail director, Andy Clarke, 

 “By raising the age limit to 18 for the sale of cigarettes and knives, not only are we helping discourage teenage smoking, but also helping our colleagues who sometimes find it hard to judge how old customers are,” added Andy. 

ASDA is calling for other large retailers, newsagents and small stores to follow its lead as well as adopt the Challenge 21 policy. 



The call to action follows Government research (3) which showed that nearly 70 per cent of 11 to 15 year old smokers say they buy their cigarettes from small retailers such as newsagents and corner shops.

Raising the age limit to 18 and adopting Challenge 21 also protects ASDA’s colleagues who are often faced with the responsibility of accurately identifying if the customer is 16, 17 or 18. 


Checking to see if customers are 21 makes the decision easier and protects them against potential prosecution and fines, for which, they are personally liable, under UK law. 

“ASH welcomes ASDA’s move to stop cigarette sales to under 18s, in advance of any Government decision to change the law in this area. We hope this will set an example to all retailers.


Smoking is a lethal addiction that should not be promoted to children and retailers should make sure that cigarette sales on their premises are made to adults only, said ASH spokesperson, Ian Willmore.  Notices will appear in ASDA 300 + plus stores before the age limit is raised on 1 September 2006.


Posted in Press Centre on 19 July 2006