England Getting Battier

Hi Readers — Here’s the news from across the seas. Or sea, anyway. Or ocean, really. Anyway, a reader writes:

If efzbyirykz
you want more UK stories – a couple below:

I noticed a warning in a store here (see photo) that it is now illegal to sell crackers to people under the age of 16.  Crackers are a traditional British novelty at Christmas and celebrations – they’re little surprise parcels that two people pull apart and that usually contain a (generally poor quality!) gift and a joke.  They also have a small amount of explosive that creates the “crack.”  It’s tiny – not like a cap guns, not like Chinese firework crackers – a tiny little pop. Under 16?  So you can’t now send your 15 year old daughter out to get another box when unexpected guests turn up.  She also couldn’t buy them for a party for friends, or just because they’re fun.  It’s absurd.

In other news, from the Times Online today a piece about Ofsted (Britain’s schools standards body) inspections: a “school was judged to be inadequate because inspectors deemed the fence around the playground low enough for child snatchers to reach in and grab pupils”.

Child snatching from British schools must have become a new pass time while I was out of the country.

Cracker warning? Or cracking up warning?

24 Responses to England Getting Battier

  1. angelsandurchinsblog December 4, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    As a British mother, I’m saddened about the edict on children buying Christmas crackers. No doubt party poppers will be next. And, not exactly related but equally mad, I left my child in the car yesterday while I was ten yards away buying a parking ticket. A stranger came up and berated me for being such an ‘irresponsible parent’. Maybe she thought the three-year-old would go off on a joy ride!

  2. Sky December 4, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    You mean there are still children under the age of 16 walking into shops all by themselves and buying things with money? Wow! I didn’t know 12 year olds were allowed to walk and shop alone anymore without an adult chaperone.

  3. pentamom December 4, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

    Honestly these people need to go spend a week in a third world slum or something. It might restore some perspective on what “danger” really is and how some kids manage to survive things worse than holiday crackers and fences so low someone might be able to grab them if they are standing still less than an arm’s length away from the fence. (Can you imagine the number of perfect circumstances that would have to exist for a random person to be able to grab a child over the fence and get away with him?)

  4. Dot Khan December 5, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    I wish I could buy crackers in the United States as stocking stuffers for Christmas.

  5. Helen December 5, 2009 at 3:35 am #

    “Honestly these people need to go spend a week in a third world slum or something. It might restore some perspective on what “danger” really is ”

    Sadly I think the real reason for not allowing under 16s to buy crackers is more about thinking every child is really a criminal and out to cause trouble (and hence not allowed to buy any explosive or knife) than a protection thing, though protection will always be mentioned. The attitude here (UK) towards teenagers is quite horrifying at times.

    I also found warning labels on some bedside lamps I bought saying they weren’t suitable for anyone under 14 – can’t think what about a lamp can be unsuitable for most kids under 6ish.

  6. Raven December 5, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    angelsand urchins..

    Party poppers are already a restricted item and can’t be sold to under 16’s.. I worked in retail, here in the UK, until last year and had to age check anyone who I thought was under 16..

    Here is the list from just one councils website in the UK (there are tons of them)


    I’m getting to the stage where I want to live in another country…. All I need to do is win the lottery and you wouldn’t see my a**e for dust.. 🙂

  7. Procrastamom December 5, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    @Dot Khan…I was shocked by your comment. You can’t buy Christmas crackers in the States? They are available everywhere here in Canada. I will have to remember that if I ever move south…Christmas isn’t Christmas without the crackers!

  8. kherbert December 5, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    You can buy crackers in the US. My cousin has them on the table every Christmas. I’ll ask her where she gets them.

  9. Suzanne December 5, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Party crackers…


    I’ve seen them at Marshall’s too.

  10. Mae Mae December 5, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    Sky – I thought the same thing as I was reading this. Stores in my area have begun putting up saigns that “children” 18 and under must be accompanied by an adult. We are a college town. Are the freshmen supposed to ask a professor to go with them or maybe their RA? Stupid!

    On another note, I didn’t know you could buy party crackers in the US so thanks, Suzanne. I am going to order some for my kids.

  11. Nicola December 5, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    I didn’t know you could get crackers here in the US either. And I’m telling you… the UK is sounding even crazier than the crazies in the US. I think the difference is that the US crazies aren’t all in control of the government yet… (yet).

  12. ~Di December 6, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    Helen, the attitude toward teens isn’t much better here in the US. I work in a small home improvement store, and here in NY it’s illegal for anyone under 18 to buy spray paint. I had to “card” someone the other day and they looked at me like I was from Mars. I just shook my head and gave them a “yeah, I know it’s stupid” look. Sure there are vandals around, but to make every 16 year old needing paint for a school project ask his parents to buy it? Give me a break.

  13. Helen December 6, 2009 at 1:46 am #

    Di – I lived in San Francisco for a while and there it was illegal for kids to have markers or spray paint on MUNI (public transport). Since lots of kids used MUNI to get to school I’m not sure how they were supposed to carry art supplies. So I know it’s not perfect. But I’ve only just moved back to the UK and I’m kind of shocked by the change from when I left in the mid-nineties. The way the papers and politicians talk about youth is really bad – it’s almost always as a problem. Even when they’re discussing how to stop looking at kids as though they’re a problem it’s about how the kids are a problem because they’re viewed as a problem!

    In the Children’s Happiness Survey a few years ago the UK was at the bottom of the league with the US next to last (and only just, I believe). This was out of 21 countries – basically Europe, the US and Canada. Very depressing.

  14. pentamom December 6, 2009 at 4:41 am #

    Dot, I’ve seen them at TJ Maxx, but that’s the only place I’ve ever seen them. If it weren’t for Harry Potter, I wouldn’t even have known what they were when I saw them. And I think those were kind of “upscale” ones.

  15. pentamom December 6, 2009 at 4:43 am #

    Walmart requires age verification if you buy ordinary spray paint. They don’t actually card you if you look like an adult, but the checker has to enter a code confirming that the customer is over 18. I think that’s a combination of huffing and vandalism — so yeah, there is something of an assumption that everybody’s a criminal, but it does sound a lot worse in the UK.

  16. Mark Uhde December 6, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    Wow, to think that little kids can freely buy fireworks on their own around the 4th here – no questions asked. God Bless the USA

  17. Lisa December 8, 2009 at 7:15 am #


    If you have a Cost Plus World Market near you, you can buy crackers there. I pick up a box every year. I spent a few Christmases in London as a student in the 90s, and I loved the crackers. so cute.

    This rule is so ridiculous. And here I thought England was more enlightened than the US about this kind of stuff. I guess I was wrong.

  18. Uly December 8, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    Wow, to think that little kids can freely buy fireworks on their own around the 4th here – no questions asked. God Bless the USA

    They can? Mark, I don’t know where you live, but where I live, equally in the USA, there are restrictions on who can buy fireworks and for what purposes.

  19. Mae Mae December 8, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    Yeah, I’m in New York and even adults can’t buy fireworks. I wish I could get them here.

  20. Mike December 9, 2009 at 3:43 am #

    Oh I don’t know, perhaps it’s a good law.
    Consider: with only $100 worth of crackers and a few of hours of preparation, an enterprising 9th grader might assemble enough cracker snappers that she could set them off all at once and startle her grandmother. Heavens, can’t have that! Much better to deny said 9th grader any toy with even the slightest hint of risk, so that she drifts off to assuage her boredom with drugs and shoplifting.

  21. Lisa D December 9, 2009 at 4:26 am #

    Hi there. Just thought you might like to know that most of these ‘rules’ are invented by the shops concerned in the UK, they may quote the law, but not correctly. The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) are so used to being blamed for all these local shops and councils being pathetic that they have created a website with ‘myth of the month’ … and it goes back quite a way, with lots of the stories papers such as the Daily Mail cite. Just to say, if you read that the Daily Mail/Sun/Mirror/ etc reported it, check it yourself, as they can’t really be relied upon for objective news.

  22. Helen December 9, 2009 at 6:32 am #

    Lisa D. – To be fair, in this particular case nobody was actually blaming the HSE. But you make a good point about people taking advice from incorrect sources.

    So I went looking for the fireworks laws.
    I found the The Explosives act 1875 (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1875/cukpga_18750017_en_3#pt2-pb6-l1g18), which says
    “Gunpowder shall not be sold to [any person apparently under the age of sixteen] years; and any person selling gunpowder in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence…” (Words in square brackets substituted by legislation in the 1975).

    Also, I found this:
    from a government site that interprets regulations for businesses which says “…certain fireworks such as caps, cracker snaps and party poppers which can be supplied to persons 16 and over”.

    So it seems this has been technically illegal for decades but wasn’t enforced. I remember buying caps for my cap gun all the time in the 70s and 80s.

  23. skippy December 16, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    What a joke! My parents are from England and we had crackers every Christmas.

  24. JonR December 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    When I was a kid, I’d buy rolls of caps from the convenience store, place them on-edge on a rock, and hit them with a sledgehammer!

    When you did it right, the hammer “bounced” back into the air faster than it swung down.