Retailers in the front-line of the battle against underage sales will soon have access to a new technology that verifies their customers' ages.
Liverpool-based company OK I.D is set to launch a new range of counter-top fingerprint scanners which use biometric technology to check that purchasers are of legal age. The scanners have been trialled in five Manchester stores with positive results.
Over-18s register for the machine by bringing in a valid passport or driving licence. Their prints are then scanned, and from then on they simply put their finger in the machine to instantly verify ID.
Independent retailer David Bridge has been testing the machine in his Here to Please You store since Christmas, and says that 50 young people have already signed up.
"It's been a huge hit with the local youngsters," he says. "It means they don't have to keep their passports or driving licences on them, which can be expensive to replace if lost."
The device has also led to shorter queues at the till, and is less intimidating for staff to use than asking customers for ID. It's also less embarrassing for young-looking customers.
It has also drastically cut the number of underage youths who attempt to purchase alcohol and cigarettes. "It also shows Trading Standards that you are doing everything possible to be a responsible retailer," David added.
The device, which can be rented on contract from OK I.D at £1 a day, will be available nationwide from May.
Meanwhile, ground-breaking facial recognition technology is also being trialled for use in stores. The 'Age Watch' system captures customers' images and scans them against a database of those who have previously attempted to buy goods underage, allowing retailers to gauge if the person they are serving is underage.
Images that aren't recognised can be captured, stored and pooled with other stores in the area.
Rollout of the system, devised by facial recognition company OmniPerception and software company Charton, is expected later in the year.