British stores including Tesco, Waitrose and B&Q have banned the sale of acids to customers under the age of 18 in a bid to crack down on crimes involving corrosive substances.

The retailers, which include Wilko, the Co Op, Morrisons, John Lewis and Wickes, have voluntarily signed up to the government plan.

The UK has one of the highest rates of acid attacks in the world, police revealed last year, with more than 800 reported attacks a year.

A fifth of attackers caught in the year to April 2017 were under 18 years old.

A string of high-profile attacks in recent years have sparked calls for legislation to make corrosive substances more difficult to obtain.

The ban will apply to the sale of products which contain sulphuric acid, 10% hydrochloric acid or 12% sodium hydroxide, found in paint strippers and drain cleaners.

It will apply to customers in store and online.

The Home Office has proposed new legislation to ban the sale of acids to minors. This would bring the law for household acids and harmful chemicals that are not already subject to legal restrictions into line with crimes relating to knives.

Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, 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."

The British Independent Retailers Association, which includes independent DIY and hardware shops, will also ask its members to sign up to the new voluntary ban.

But the body said the ban would be harder for its smaller members to enforce, because they are unlikely to have computerised stocks and tills. This will mean shop owners and staff will need a clear understanding of the products they sell and how they relate to the new ban.

However, former chief prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal, says the voluntary ban can be easily got around online.

"I checked and you can buy sulphuric acid at 96% strength, which will burn your face off, for £10 on next day delivery," he told the BBC.

"Until you tackle that issue, you're only playing with it rather than tackling it."

Acids have been increasingly used to carry out attacks in recent years. In December 2017, Arthur Collins, the ex-boyfriend of reality TV star Ferne McCann, was jailed for 20 years carrying out an acid attack in an east London nightclub that scarred 22 clubbers.