The FDA and State law enforcement will both conduct sting operations and enforce the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act, including the use of “mystery shoppers” that are under the age of 18.
The FDA is actively enforcing minimum age sales laws through compliance check inspections and has already conducted more than 508,000 checks of retail stores and is pursuing nearly 5,300 civil money penalties for violations. The FDA also issued its first ever “no-tobacco-sale order” for stores with repeated violations. If your store hasn’t been inspected yet, it’s very likely to happen in the coming year.
Additionally, the FDA has indicated that a retailer’s implementation of the following four steps MUST be considered as factors in determining whether or not to impose FDA’s toughest penalty of a “no-tobacco-sale order” should your store receive one for repeated violations as a result of FDA compliance check inspections of your store.
DON’T GET STUNG!
So, how do you go about incorporating these steps internally in your business operation at the store level?
The We Card Program has some suggestions and resources to help you make it happen. Let’s go through each one of the four steps:
1) Adopt and enforce a written policy against sales to minors
We Card has a Company Tobacco Sales Policy & Employee Acknowledgement of Company Policy template that you can customize, put on your company letterhead and distribute to every employee. Consider using this as your starting point, add any additional tobacco sales policies you may already have, and get each employee to read and sign it and keep a copy in your employee files. It’s a free download at www.wecard.org in the Resource Center.
2) Informing employees of all applicable laws
Employees need to know, not only what the federal law and FDA regulations require, but also what State laws require. The same goes for any local laws that may differ from the federal or state requirement. Here too, We Card has a resource for you . Go to We Card’s State Law Summaries Page, where you’ll find the minimum-age requirement, the restricted products, the acceptable forms of ID, and if there is a government state sign requirement (and how to get one). For FDA requirements, be sure to see our summary – We Card’s Federal Law and FDA Regulations Summary. Download these resources, and use them to inform your employees.
It is, also, a good idea to perform your own ID Check-Up in your store(s). Send a confidential mystery shopping service to check your store’s performance at carding customers.
3) Establish disciplinary sanctions for employee noncompliance
You must determine how employees are disciplined if they fail a compliance check. We Card can provide support by encouraging you to consider re-training employees who do not perform properly and offers refresher training that should be taken on a regular basis. To provide balance, we also recommend that you reward employees who do perform properly. Consider regular praise, recognition and other incentives to encourage compliance.
4) Require employees to verify age by way of photographic identifcation or electronic scanning device identification
The FDA requires your employees to ask for ID of anyone under 27 years old who is attempting to purchase cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, smokeless tobacco or roll-your-own tobacco. There are no exceptions. The FDA has indicated that even if a customer is known to be “of age” but under 27 years old, that customer must be carded each-and-every-time. The key word in this step is “verify.” We Card has tools to assist your sales associates with this verifying step as customers are asked for photographic identification. The We Card Age of Purchase Calendar makes this step easier with the page-a-day calendar. You may also have a scanner or register age-prompt system for age-restricted products. Be sure to train employees to use it each-and-every time. And keep in mind that if the FDA issues a citation to your store, you’ll actually receive two violations: one for selling to a minor and another for not asking for ID.
Follow these four steps to better position your store for compliance. And equip your store with in-store signage, including state required signs. These are helpful not just to alert your customers, but your employees as well – that carding is your policy.
Making sure your employees have the tools and training they need to keep you in compliance is good business.