Trading Standards Information and Advice: Tobacco sales from vending machines

From 1st October 2011, the law will change to make it illegal for cigarettes (or any other tobacco products) to be sold directly to the public from automatic vending machines in England – regardless of age.

From this date it will also be against the law to display advertisements or pictures of tobacco products on vending machines. The current exemption allowing advertisements on vending machines will no longer apply.

Businesses will still be able to sell tobacco products if they wish to, but must comply with the current law (for example, the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion (Point of Sale) Regulations 2004 regulating the A5 advertisement allowed at point of sale).

It should also be noted that, from 6th April 2012, the law will change on the display of tobacco products and the display of the prices of tobacco products, making it illegal for large stores to display tobacco products except in the limited circumstances set out in the new law. Small shops will be expected to adhere to the change in legislation from 2015. Further guidance will be available for businesses and regulatory officers to explain the requirements of the new law.

Who is responsible for compliance?

The owner or manager of the premises where a vending machine is located will be guilty of an offence if tobacco products are sold from that machine. Legislation states that the offence falls to “the person who controls, or is concerned with the management of, the premises” where the machine is located.

Both the owner of the vending machine and the owners and managers of the premises on which vending machines are located, will be responsible for ensuring that there are no advertisements of tobacco products on vending machines.

What happens if the law is broken?

Any person found guilty of the offence of selling of tobacco from a vending machine is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 (£2,500 at the time of publication) on the standard scale.

Any person found guilty of an offence in relation to tobacco advertisements is liable to a more serious penalty.

These are: on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 (£5,000 at time of publication) on the standard scale, or both; or on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine, or both.