I had a query a couple of months ago from Mike McQuillen, aired in this column. He had a couple of 16-year-olds working for him and wondered if, and how, he would have to fire them when the age of purchasing cigarettes went up to 18 in October, assuming you would have to be 18 to sell them as well.
At the time I consulted Acas, which said that 16-year-olds are now entitled to redundancy just like everybody else.
However, I was then contacted by a major cigarette manufacturer, who pointed out that it is currently legal for 15-year-olds to sell cigarettes and other 'smoking requisites' to 16-year-olds and, as far as major manufacturers' considerable lobbying goes, this situation will not change when the minimum purchasing age goes up.
And here are a few other ways that you may be tripped up. Some trading standards officers have conducted test purchasing on age-restricted DVDs given away with national newspapers (I wish they wouldn't do this - I have a drawer full of them, everything from Moby Dick to The Snows of Kilimanjaro). When first tested, in Liverpool in 2005, 13 retailers were visited and 10 failed.
I don't think many retailers need reminders about the National Lottery and scratchards, because Camelot does a fine job of policing its own territory. Some others you may have forgotten are solvents, and lighter fluids and refills containing butane. Purchasers have to be 18 or over and the fine for breaking the law is a maximum of £5,000 (these can cause instant death).
On the other hand, you can buy knives if you're 16, along with liqueur chocolates, party poppers, caps and 'throw downs'.
I liked Marco Sinfornia's take on the subject of smoking bans and human rights. Marco trades in Kilmarnock and his story is that a group of prisoners sued the Scottish Executive for denying them access to an illegal drug (methadone), to which they were addicted. And they won. "So, if the Scottish Executive raises the smoking limits before England, could a 17-year-old smoker sue the Executive for denying them access to something they are addicted to?"
He adds: "Just when are they adults? A 13-year-old girl can go to her doctor for an abortion. If you are 16, you can raise a family, but at
17-and-three-quarters you will be a child when it comes to tobacco."