One in Five Ontario C-Stores Sold Cigarettes to Minors

Mystery shop study says 56% of Toronto c-stores allowed purchases without Identification


TORONTO -- One in five convenience stores (21%) did not ask for valid identification of underage patrons, according to a new mystery shop study of 190 Ontario c-stores conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Canada's National Brewers.

Major chains and independent stores were equally found to sell tobacco products to patrons under the provincially defined legal age of 19 years old, the report said. Of the 44 stores visited in Toronto, 56% allowed underage patron purchases without asking for valid identification.

The mystery shop study sent 17 year olds, accompanied by an adult surveyor who waited outside during potential transactions, into both independent (152 stores in total) and convenience/gas chains (38 stores in total) in 12 markets across the province to find out how accessible tobacco products are to minority-aged patrons.

Nearly a quarter (22%) of independent retailers did not ask for identification and sold cigarette products to the underage patrons that requested them, while three quarters (78%) asked for identification and denied access at the point of sale. Similarly, one in five (18%) convenience/gas chains did not request photo identification at the point of sale and allowed the underage mystery shoppers to purchase the cigarette product without question, while eight in 10 (82%) asked for identification and denied the sale.

According to provincial legislation, retailers must post government I.D. required signs at any location where tobacco is sold or supplied in a place where the sign is clearly visible to the person who sells or supplies the tobacco and to the person to whom the tobacco is sold or supplied.

Despite this requirement, the results of the mystery shop reveal that one in 10 c-stores (11%) in Ontario do not have the appropriate "Be 19" signage visible to its patrons, said the report.

Independent retailers (12%) were less consistent with posting these age-restriction signs visibly than convenience/gas chains (5%).

Ipsos Reid conducted the mystery shop in the following Ontario markets: Toronto, Hamilton/Niagara Region, Ottawa, Kitchener/Guelph, London, Kingston, Peterborough, Barrie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Windsor, and North Bay.

The results reveal that Toronto retailers top the list of being least likely to ask for identification and most likely to sell cigarettes to minority-aged patrons, followed by retailers in smaller markets like Barrie, Windsor, and North Bay.

The firm conducted the study conducted between Jan. 24 and Feb. 6, 2014.

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