Since their invention more than 150 years ago, Christmas crackers, with their terrible jokes and paper hats, have become just as much a part of the Christmas tradition as the carols, tree and presents, and as such as loved by children everywhere. But thanks to a little-known EU ruling, the sale of crackers to children is forbidden, meaning that some supermarkets have been turning teenagers wanting to purchase them away.
Under EU regulations, crackers are classed as low-grade fireworks, meaning that their sale to minors is prohibited. Any shopkeeper caught selling crackers to children faces a jail sentence of up to six months, or a £5,000 fine.
The ruling has led to a number of teenagers being turned away from supermarkets empty-handed. Last week, in one such example, a 16 year old attempting to buy a box of crackers at a Sainsbury’s in Islington was refused the sale, the Daily Mail has reported.
When the crackers were swiped through the till, a “think 25” message, more commonly associated with other age-restricted items such as alcohol and tobacco, flashed up on the screen. As the boy was unable to prove his age, the sale was refused, despite the government last year lowering the age limit for cracker sales from 16 to 12 as part of a measure to cut back on red tape.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “Our corporate age restriction on Christmas crackers is 12, in line with trading standards policy. But it is up to the discretion of store managers on whether to go ahead with a sale.”