UK: Stores sign up to voluntary ban on acid sales to teenagers

Some of Britain's biggest retailers pledge to stop selling corrosive liquids to teenagers following a sharp rise in acid attacks.

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The voluntary code includes banning products containing harmful levels of acid and corrosive substances

Source: Sky News, By Dan Whitehead, Sky News Reporter, January 7, 2018

Sales of products containing dangerous levels of acids and corrosive substances have been banned for under 18-year-olds under a new voluntary government plan aimed at stopping acid attacks.

Some of the country’s largest retailers including Wickes, B&Q, Screwfix and Tesco have signed the list of commitments, which include checking the age of buyers both in store and online.

Under the ban – which is not legally binding – the following products will not be sold to those under 18:

:: Products that contain 12% or above of sodium hydroxide, such as some drain cleaners and paint strippers
:: Any liquids with 10% or more of hydrochloric acid, which includes brick and patio cleaners
:: Products containing 10% or above of ammonium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite, which includes many cleaning products.

There are calls for restrictions on buying powerful corrosive substances
Image:Wickes, B&Q, Screwfix and Tesco are among the retailers who have signed up to the scheme

Shops are also being recommended to comply with the Poisons Act and promote awareness to staff.

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, said: “Acid attacks have a devastating impact on their victims, leaving both emotional and physical scars. I’m pleased that so many of the UK’s major retailers are joining our fight to combat this scourge and signalling they are committed to selling acids responsibly.”

Jabed Hussain had a corrosive substance thrown in his face in 2017
Image:Jabed Hussain had a corrosive substance thrown in his face last year

The move has been welcomed by Jabed Hussain, who had a corrosive substance thrown in his face last summer.

He was one of five victims to be burned in London on a single night of attacks and told Sky News the attack hurt him both physically and mentally.

“I’m scared to get out of my house, I’m scared to go to see my friends, I’m totally different after the incident,” he said.

Video:Jabed Hussain: I was burning and begging for water

He says more police are needed on the street to tackle the rise in acid attacks.

“The Government should go and chase them – who’s doing this – the Government should provide enough police on the street and give them the power to chase them.”

As well as national hardware and supermarket chains, smaller hardware stores are also being encouraged to sign up.

Alan Hawkins, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association, told Sky News it is more of a challenge for smaller independent stores to control.

“It’s harder for the smaller independents because if you’re a larger company you’re more likely to have computerised stocks and tills. On an independent level it is the shop owner who is going to have to understand the terms so it’s about staff training.”

How to tackle an acid burn

Video:What to do in an acid attack

Labour has welcomed the voluntary ban on under-18 sales – but Stephen Timms MP, who has led calls to do more to tackle acid attacks, says the Government must go further.

“I think what’s happened is some people who’re intent on committing crimes have worked out that it’s less risky for them to do it with the help of an acid bottle that they’re carrying than if they were carrying a knife or a gun because there are much clearer and stronger laws in place against carrying knives or guns than there are against carrying acid.”

The Home Office says it is consulting on plans to make it illegal for under-18s to get hold of acids and an offence to carry such substances in public without good reason.