Independent retailers improving in fight against underage sales through Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme

Evidence from more than 4,000 test-purchases of independent tobacco retailers in the UK in 2015 has shown a significant improvement as a result of free-of-charge professional training.

The first Responsible Tobacco Retailing (RTR) annual report details results from a proof-of-age compliance scheme which supports independent retailers and protects young people from accessing tobacco products. The scheme is funded by three of the largest tobacco manufacturers.

RTR tests independent retailers using mystery shoppers who are 18 or 19 years old, to make sure that no retailers involved actually break the law. Trading Standards best practice calls for retailers to request photo ID from anyone buying tobacco who looks under 25. As part of the programme, retailers are therefore identified as ‘at risk’ of breaking the law if they do not ask for ID from the test purchaser on two separate occasions, and are offered professional on-site training, free-of-charge.

Within the first year, the programme has already achieved a 19.6% improvement in performance from retailers.

Key to preventing youth access to tobacco products was the implementation of an effective and documented training programme for staff. During the first year, 14% of all retailers assessed were deemed to be ‘at risk’, having failed to challenge for ID on two separate occasions. The majority (87%) of ‘at risk’ retailers were found either to have inadequate or no training in place for staff to prevent underage sales.

Another key factor was the presence of adequate warning signs or age verification policies. To help remedy this, more than 11,000 ‘No ID No Sale’ packs have been distributed free of charge to retailers during the first year of the programme.

Cllr Suleman Khonat; chair of the Tobacco Retailers Alliance and NW president of the Federation of Retail Newsagents, said: “The retail trade warmly welcomes the support they receive from the tobacco industry to help tackle youth access to tobacco. We work tirelessly to challenge young people when they try to buy age restricted products, but we can always improve. The Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme enables us to identify any areas of concerns and potential issues so retailers can improve their training practices and procedures helping to prevent under 18s accessing tobacco and other age restricted goods.”