We Card Awareness Month Highlights Tobacco 21 Laws & Compliance with FDA
ARLINGTON, VA— Right now all eyes seem to focus on retailer tobacco and vapor product compliance with underage access laws. This convergence of events includes:
• 12 states are increasing the minimum-age laws to purchase tobacco and vapor products with effective dates running from July to January.
• FDA is ramping up its enforcement throughout 2019, calling out specific retail chains for poor compliance and indicating more forceful action in the future.
• News reports are highlighting varying aspects of the underage vaping problem.
During We Card Awareness Month in September, the national non-profit is stepping up efforts to help retailers boost compliance with federal, state and local laws governing age-restricted products.
“Transitioning to new state laws, especially higher 21 year minimum-age laws is no small endeavor for a single-store operator or a retail chain operating in multiple states. In some cases, customers may first hear of the law change when they’re attempting to buy a product at the point of purchase,” according to Doug Anderson, president of the We Card Program.
Some states have mandated an “under 30” age for retailers to ask for ID – which is higher than the FDA requirement of “under 27” years old. And there are nuances to these laws which sometimes provide exceptions for active duty U.S. Military who present their military ID -- in which case the age remains 18 years (Arkansas, Texas and Virginia -- and in MD once the 21 law takes effect.)
To help retailers with this complexity, We Card rolled out “21 year Minimum-Age Resources” for retailers, including an online download summary of each state’s new law and a FREE 10-12 minute state-specific Training Booster Course. The training teaches employees how to handle the formerly of-age customer who will find out he no longer can purchase vapor or tobacco products where the purchase age has changed.
The FDA retailer compliance program covers regulations restricting underage commercial access to tobacco and vapor products -- completing nearly 125,000 inspections of retail stores this fiscal year and almost 1.1 million inspections since 2010.
“We Card’s efforts to help convenience stores – and every type of store – boost their compliance rates are showing tremendous results. After 24 years of helping retailers with training and education, We Card is well-positioned to help retailers make this transition, keep awareness high and offer employee training to spot and deny underage attempts to purchase age-restricted products,” said Lyle Beckwith, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores and a We Card board chairman. NACS is a founding board member of We Card. “And while all training, tools and technology can help, ultimately the retail employee needs to be prepared and confident at preventing underage tobacco and vapor sales,” he added.
National compliance rates reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – which issues annual retailer violation rates -- show a 9.6% violation rate with state youth access to tobacco laws (or said another way, a 90.4% compliance rate) in the latest national look at compliance. “That’s a big positive swing in compliance from 1997 when it was measured to be a 40% violation rate. Now, less than 1 in 10 underage attempts to purchase are successful but retailers need to remain vigilant and aim for 100% compliance,” said Beckwith.
We Card Awareness Month also brings Letters of Support and Gubernatorial Proclamations. Last year, as many as 34 states recognized Awareness Month and retailer efforts to prevent underage tobacco and vapor sales.
We Card Awareness Month brings forward an opportunity for retailers to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent underage tobacco and vapor sales. Including:
About We Card: The We Card Program, Inc. is a national non-profit organization that represents a unified effort among trade associations, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. It was created 24 years ago to support retailers of tobacco and other age-restricted products. Individual retail establishments as well as large retail chains use We Card's educational and training services to comply with federal and state laws while working to prevent underage tobacco, e-vapor and other age-restricted product sales. National and state retail trade associations, government officials, community groups and others also support We Card's ongoing efforts to educate and train retailers.
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