Rakesh Sood, who runs Handerson's in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, presented another smoking gun. He rang to ask what's going to happen to the 17-year-old who already has the habit when the legal age for purchasing tobacco goes up. Will they have to quit? Won't they be like bears with sore heads? He points out that it's all the more reason for the authorities to make it very clear that retailers are not just imposing this new rule because they feel like being bolshie policeman.
What if they raised the marriageable age (currently 16 with parental permission and 18 without), pursues Rakesh. Would married people under that age have to have annulments?
I put the ciggie question to a major tobacco manufacturer and, interestingly, nobody knew the answer offhand. Both corporate and trade public affairs departments were intrigued, but had never been faced with the question before.
You could complicate this question by considering alcohol (I'd love to, but I'm still working). Under the age of 18, you can neither buy it nor sell it (without supervision in the latter case). Yet parents can use their judgement at home and, indeed, it used to be advised in the consumer press that it was wise to introduce sensible drinking via wine with dinner - I think this has died a death since families don't sit down at dining tables with their offspring all that often any more, except for Christmas, when I bet most offer some sort of libation to the teenagers.
In the end, the general consensus from everybody, including the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, was that there is no legal age for consumption of tobacco, although the Children's Act of a century ago would allow police to confiscate smoking materials from kids on