What is Social Sourcing and What Can Retailers Do?
A customer comes to the checkout counter to buy a vape pod. The sales associate checks the customer’s ID, finds they are under age 21 and denies the purchase attempt. Then the customer’s older friend, who is of legal age, offers to buy it instead.
Now the sales associate is in a tricky situation. The customer’s friend is capable of making a legal purchase, but it’s clear that what’s really happening here is an adult purchase on behalf of someone underage. The store associate has to make a judgment call based on their training, experience and understanding of the situation.
This is called social sourcing
This scenario is a common example of “social sourcing,” where those underage ask a 21+ year old to buy or provide them with tobacco or vaping products. Of course, there are also the “bumming” and “borrowing” aspects of underage access to age-restricted products.
These are all “social sourcing.” In fact, 54% of highschoolers who indicated they vaped in the past 30 days said “I got or bought them from a friend, family member, or someone else” according federal government survey research.
Clearly, this is a problem.
In this scenario, We Card recommends denying this adult purchase on behalf of the underage person. While federal law and the FDA regulations don’t directly address social sourcing, many state laws include restrictions. Deny the sale! Plus, the store associate has the right to deny a sale if they have reason to believe it will end up in the hands of someone under the legal age. We recommend adopting this company policy: If you can reasonably determine that an adult is buying age-restricted products for underage youth, you should deny the sale.
What else can your store do?
Join We Card’s new in-store campaign to address “social sourcing” of tobacco and vaping products – including cigarettes, nicotine pouches, little cigars, smokeless or vaping products.
Order your free signage kit at WeCard.org/Free-Kit
(two free kit options are available).
This FREE We Card campaign helps inform customers and discourages them from buying or providing age-restricted products to those underage.
Responsible retailing of age-restricted products means both identifying and denying underage purchase attempts AND helping prevent social sourcing access to them.