A new scheme designed to cut underage drinking by asking anyone who looks under the age 25 to show identification has been launched in the UK.

Under the programme, named Challenge 25, anyone over the legal drinking age of 18 can be challenged to present photo ID if they look younger than 25.

Police and ministers have given their support to the initiative, which was launched at an Asda supermarket in London today (15 January) by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group.

Challenge 25 comes less than two months after the UK government signalled its intention to introduce a mandatory code of practice for alcohol retailers, as part of ministers' strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm.

RASG chairman Nick Grant said: "Feedback from frontline staff suggests they want the freedom to challenge more widely to ensure young people are not breaking the law."

Gavin Partington, spokesperson for the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, which has helped to co-ordinate the initiative, said that Asda has been trialling the scheme.

He told just-drinks last night (14 January) that he expected "significant take up" of the scheme across the off-trade, although it would remain voluntary. He said that it was important for retailers to "demonstrate that they are doing something to reduce underage sales." 

Following the launch, Home Office minister Alan Campbell said: "The Challenge 21 scheme has already proven itself to be an effective tool to combat underage drinking so I hope every retailer will adopt these new guidelines."

He added: "We recognise that the majority of retailers take their responsibilities seriously, refusing to sell alcohol to around 1.5million underage children every month, and are determined to continue working with them to tackle the problem."

Commander Simon O'Brien, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, also welcomed the "unprompted" Challenge 25 scheme.