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Challenge 21


For a number of years, the British Beer & Pub Association's Challenge 21 scheme has been raising awareness among publicans and their staff of the need to be vigilant in preventing underage sales. The scheme serves as a reminder to customers that it is against the law to purchase alcohol if you are under 18, or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18. If you are lucky enough to appear under 21, you can expect to be asked to prove your age.

In 2010 it became a legal obligation for all licensed premises to have an age verification scheme such as Challenge 21 in place. (The law is different in Scotland where Challenge 25 is mandatory.)

Research has demonstrated that there is a high level of awareness amongst young people and retailers of Challenge 21 and that 75% of 18-25 year olds have been stopped and asked for ID when purchasing alcohol as a result of an age verification scheme, demonstrating the success of Challenge 21 and similar schemes amongst its key target group.

Pubs turn away over one million customers each month who, when challenged, are unable to provide acceptable proof of age - clearly indicating the trade is making a huge effort to enforce the law and prevent underage sales. In addition, levels of underage drinking have seen a steady decline – between 2000 and 2013 the proportion of young people in England (11-15 year olds) that have tried alcohol fell from 59% in 2000 to 39% and since a peak in 2001, the proportion of children drinking in the past week had dropped from 26% to 9%.

How to support the campaign

The BBPA and its members have now circulated over 300,000 Challenge 21 posters to British pubs with thousands more downloaded for free from the BBPA website. Hard copies of the Challenge 21 poster can be obtained from the BBPA shop (free to members) or downloaded for free here.

All licensed premises are required to have an age verification policy in place and Challenge 21 is the best known and most widely used scheme in the on-trade.

As well as displaying the poster visibly to ensure that your customers know that they might be asked to prove their age, it is very important that operators embed Challenge 21 into their staff training programmes and ensure that all staff know that they are required to ask for identification and understand what are the acceptable forms of identification.

For further information and example about acceptable forms of identification, including examples to help with identification please see the Home Office False ID Guidance.

Tough penalties are in place for serving someone who is underage – this can include a fine of up to £20,000.

Challenge 21 video from Pubwatch

National Pubwatch has released its new Challenge 21 film. The film has been produced in order to provide Pubwatch members with a simple training tool which will allow them to cascade information to their bar staff. The film can be found on the YouTube link on National Pubwatch website.

Steve Baker Chair of National Pubwatch said, “The criticism of the pub and hospitality trade for under age sales continues to be an issue despite the fact that for many years they have had the superb Challenge 21 scheme in existence. We have decided to promote the scheme and at the same time show how bar staff can demonstrate due diligence by following a few simple steps when checking ID”.

The film can be viewed on YouTube here.


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