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7 steps to take right now. Before FDA regulations took effect, it was enough to prevent an underage tobacco sale. The thinking was, "is this customer old enough to buy tobacco?" ruled the day. That way of thinking falls short now. Retailers are receiving warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for selling tobacco to a minor AND for not carding someone who is under 27. That's two violations, not one.
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. 
The FDA says it's looking to retailers to help enforce the sweeping tobacco regulations that took effect June 22. "We understand the retailers really are on the front lines and are the key piece to making this a success," said Kathleen Quinn, the acting director of communications for the Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA. "Our approach is they are our partners and we want to equip them with the tools they need."
Electronic age verification devices take the math out of checking ID. Just swipe the customer's driver's license and the machine does the rest. Sounds simple. We Card calendars take the math out checking ID too. For every day of the month, the calendar provides the birth date required for a legal tobacco sale. In other words, if it's Dec. 19, 2009 and the legal age for buying tobacco is 18, then the customer must have a birth date of Dec. 19, 1991 -- or earlier.
Top 4 Reasons For Compliance Failure Just about everyone who works behind the counter in a convenience store or a grocery store knows by now that it's against the law to sell tobacco to minors. So why do retailers still fail compliance checks?
Tales From The Trenches Trainers for the We Card program travel the country to train retail employees on how to avoid selling cigarettes to minors. They teach the importance of checking ID's, how to prevent conflict while denying a sale and how to juggle all the tasks of a high-stress job. The stakes are high. In many states an employee can be fined for selling cigarettes to underage customers and the store can lose its license.
Imagine you're at the register and a customer, who doesn't look much older than your kid brother, asks for a pack of cigarettes. You check his ID and sure enough he's too young, so you refuse the sale. The teenager heads outside and starts talking to a person in a parked car. Next thing you know, the person is standing in front of you asking for the same brand the teenager just asked for. Again, you do what you've been trained to do. "I'm not allowed to sell you those cigarettes because it appears you're buying for a minor," you say.
Click here to see what's required in your state. Alaska keeps its warning against tobacco sales to minors simple, requiring retailers to post these words where customers can easily see them: "The Sale of Tobacco Products to Persons Under Age 19 is Illegal." Delaware requires bold red and black graphics. "Under 18? Don't Even Try to Buy." And in Oklahoma, the state-required sign comes in orange. "It's The Law. We Do Not Sell Tobacco Products to Persons Under 18 Years of Age."

Do The Math

Driver licenses in California are color-coded to identify a minor, so it should be pretty easy for a front line employee to identify a 16-year-old trying to make an illegal purchase of cigarettes. But law enforcement in Yolo County, outside Sacramento, find that frequently the sales associates they cite in enforcement stings have sold to minors who present valid ID's that show they are too young to buy cigarettes.
Eleven states prohibit sales to minors... e-Cigarettes are increasing in popularity. States are adding them to the list of restricted products that should not be sold to minors. Today, 11 states consider e-cigarettes as an age-restricted product. In short order, 11 states could change to 12, 15 or even 50 states.


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