Every state in America has a law restricting tobacco sales. As of this year, sixteen states have enacted laws to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21. Many more localities have done the same. Even more restrictions are in the works to regulate the increasing surge of e-cigarette sales. Add all this to nationally mandated rules about alcohol sales, and retailers that sell age-restricted products cannot afford to be complacent.
The Risk of Non-Compliance
Selling tobacco or alcohol to minors is a serious offense. Store owners, managers, and employees can be charged, with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time to the loss of a store’s license. When the illegal sale of alcohol results in tragedy, the consequences can be life altering for all involved. Of course, as a convenience store, you can’t expect to stay in business without these products lines. Along those same lines, you’ll find yourself out of business (or, worse) if you fail to sell age-restricted products responsibly.
Train Employees on Age-Restricted Sales
Your best defense against age-restricted sales mistakes is training. Make sure your employees know the what, why, and how of complying with laws related to age-restricted sales.
What: Employees must check ID according to company policy for every sale involving alcohol, tobacco, or other age-restricted product. Whether you require employees to ID everyone, or people who look under 35, or whatever – make your policy crystal clear. Prominently post it as a reminder to both employees and customers alike.
Why: It’s the law! It’s really that simple. Your age-restricted sales training should include the specific details of the laws that govern your store.
How: Just telling your employees they need to card people is not enough. Train them on how to ask for ID and how to verify an ID is valid. In general, this includes:
- Checking the expiration date.
- Subtracting the current date from the birthdate to ensure the customer is of legal age to make the purchase.
- Verifying that the picture on the ID matches the customer.
- Inspecting the ID – to do this, handle the ID and look at it closely for signs of fraud.
If an employee in your store is caught selling an age-restricted product illegally, simply saying “But we checked ID” is not a defense. You have to be able to prove that the ID you checked was reasonably realistic and belonged to the person presenting it.
Train and Re-train
Online training will provide your staff with the foundational knowledge they need to sell tobacco responsibly. Follow this training up with on-the-job training and regularly scheduled age-restricted sales refresher training.