Common Compliance Pitfalls

We Card Program Inc. president details retailer pitfalls in FDA tobacco compliance checks

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The FDA Center for Tobacco Products currently has contracts in 26 states and Washington, D.C., to conduct tobacco compliance inspections. Doug Anderson, president of The We Card Program Inc., a nonprofit tobacco-compliance organization, took some time out to talk to CSP/Tobacco E-News about some of the common pitfalls that retailers face when it comes to age verification, the most common area where retailers have stumbled.

Retailers [image-nocss] can face two age-verification violations: One for not checking the identification of someone under the age of 27, and the other for selling to a minor. Some pitfalls include:

Lack of Awareness. Anderson said he is surprised by how many retailers don't realize that the FDA is enforcing compliance laws, in addition to locally handled "stings." He says, "With greater enforcement awareness will hopefully come greater training awareness."

Miscalculations. Because "convenience often equals speed," clerks who are rushing might miscalculate someone's age, even if they do check the person's identification. "They need to not let that override the importance of taking the time to ask for ID, examine it, slow down just a little bit to make the necessary steps to try to identify minors."

Peer pressure. Younger clerks might still have friends below the tobacco purchasing age threshold. "Nobody likes to say no to a friend," Anderson said. He suggests clerks point to the law and say that it's their responsibility and requirement--and both parties could get in trouble for an underage sale.

"It gives them a confident phrase to say. And confident and trained employees naturally perform better than those who are susceptible to peer pressure."

Customer concerns. Even if you have carded a regular customer in the past, the FDA requirement means you must now card them every time they are in the store. "It's logical to assume that can raise customer service issues and complaints from adult customers." We Card has even adjusted its logo to now say, "Under 27, Federal Law Requires We Card Every Time. Please Have ID Ready." Retailers can place the logos on windows, at their front door and at the point of sale. "That will help inform the general public in the store, and hopefully lessen the irritation factor of any customers that need to be carded," Anderson said.

To see if your state has been awarded a contract for FDA compliance check inspections, please click here.