You can sell alcohol if you are 16-17, providing you are in the presence of a supervisor at the point of sale – ie when the money changes hands. As I am clearly over the age of 18 it always makes me smile when young people selling me booze start waving the bottle in the air to elicit an okay from a passing supervisor. But the point is, it isn’t my age that is in question, it is the rule that they must make the supervisor aware of the sale.

But what about selling cigarettes and lottery tickets? The query came from Angela Mortimer, who along with her husband Clive runs Yatton Newsagents in Yatton, near Bristol. They have a daughter aged 15, who could help out on occasions. Since a 16- to 17-year-old can sell alcohol to an 18- year-old, they wondered whether a 15-year-old could be allowed to sell goods that are restricted to purchasers over 16. Camelot is categorical. No, you cannot sell lottery tickets unless you are 16 yourself. In fact, in Camelot’s case, the only time anyone under 16 on either side of the counter can get involved in lottery tickets is when they are taking part in a test purchase operation mounted by Trading Standards Officers. Camelot itself only uses 16-year-olds in its test purchasing but still gives you a black mark if you do not pass the test.

Camelot suggests that it isn’t good enough for retailers to ask how old the person wanting to play the lottery is. “If they need to ask,” says the literature they sent me, “this shows an element of doubt. Nothing short of photographic ID must be presented before the sale can go ahead.”

So that was half the question answered. How about the cigarettes? I rang my local Trading Standards Office as there doesn’t appear to be anywhere central to address these sorts of questions. They admitted that they didn’t know the answer but promised to find out and get back to me.

I made it very clear to the TSO I spoke to that I would be taking the message to 50,000 readers in the convenience sector, all of whom were keen not to get nicked. But they never did get back to me.

So I rang the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association which came up trumps in the space of a few hours. The spokeswoman said they had a contact who worked on the CitizenCard who in turn had contacts with Trading Standards. Their contacts were certainly better than mine.

And it turns out that there is no legislation either in the Employment Act, Health Act or Children’s and Young Persons’ Act to prohibit anyone legally employed (ie over the age of 14) from selling cigarettes. This suits Angela because she can keep her daughter off the lottery sales and behind the cigarette gantry.

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