Retailers are receiving violation letters
Retailers in Mississippi were the first to receive Warning Letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after selling tobacco to a minor.
Retailers were also cited for failing to check the ID of a tobacco customer under 27 years old.
"If you sell tobacco, you need to be sure you are up to speed on federal requirements," says Doug Anderson, President of We Card.
"Plus, state and local laws and regulations remain in effect so it is possible for an FDA compliance check failure to trigger a state violation as well," he added.
Retailers need to be Ready
Here are a few pointers on best practices from We Card:
- Set up consistent store policies. The FDA requires retailers to check ID for anyone under the age of 27. But how do you handle a combative customer who refuses to provide a valid ID? That's why all stores, from a mom n' pop to a national chain, need clear, consistent policies.
- Train and retrain your employees. Refusing a tobacco sale takes maturity, knowledge and know-how. Your employees may know the law, but they may need practice at calculating age. Maybe they're good at math, but find it hard to resist peer pressure. That's why training is an ongoing process. Visit We Card Online Training and get trained.
- Offer computer-based training. Some people learn best at their own pace rather than in a classroom or even one-on-one. We Card offers on-line, computer training with real-life scenarios.
- Check ID for everyone under age 27. The ban on cigarette sales applies to minors under the age of 18. So why check ID for customers as old as 27? Play the "Guess My Age" game if you don't believe that a 16-year-old can pass for 26.
- Role-play difficult situations. How do you handle a customer who refuses to provide ID? Or one who questions a decision to deny a sale? Give your employees the chance to practice these scenarios. And remember to praise them for a job well done.
- Train young employees on resisting peer pressure. Often a teenage sales associate knows the customer at the counter trying to sweet-talk an illegal cigarette sale. Or if he doesn't know the customer, he knows that customer's friends at school. Help your younger employees stand up to their peers. It's tougher than you think.
- Make sure your staff has the tools to practice calculating age. In a busy store it's easy to make a mistake. Provide your employees with the tools they need to get the age calculation right. We Card provides calendars. Or you may want to consider investing in an electronic device that reads the ID and calculates the age right there at the register.
- Hang signs in prominent places: When customers know the law, they're less likely to argue with the retailer. Make sure your customers understand FDA and local laws that ban tobacco sales to minors.
- Know the law. Keep informed of new developments in federal and state regulations. Join a trade association. Sign up for the We Card eNews -- a monthly newsletter. Your employees are counting on you to keep them informed.
- Require all employees to pass a test. How do you know your employees know what they need to know so that they don't sell tobacco to minors? Make sure they pass a test on the law, on calculating age and on techniques they can use at the counter to handle difficult scenarios.
- Positive reinforcement. The FDA and state agencies rely on fines to make sure the law is enforced. But positive reinforcement goes a long way toward ensuring compliance. So reward your employees, especially those who pass compliance checks.
- Keep up with your compliance record. Make sure you know your store's compliance record and the penalties.
- Get involved. Know the law. Learn how you can help your employees. And pass your knowledge on to others, through a trade association, your local chamber of commerce or another organization committed to responsible retailing.