Opinion: Smoker Friendly Doubles Down on Tobacco Compliance

We Card and BARS programs have been instrumental in FDA compliance checks

We Card tobacco

BOULDER, Colo. -- When the Gallagher family and David Bershof founded Smoker Friendly in Colorado in 1991, being a responsible retailer was something that kept Bershof up at night. Dan Gallagher, Smoker Friendly’s current COO, said the company’s decision to invest in its commitment to being a responsible retailer has been critical to its success.

Today, Smoker Friendly’s commitment to compliance is entrusted to Train and Verify, an enterprise that married the resources of two existing initiatives: We Card (which provides the “gold standard” of training protocols for age-restricted products) and the BARS Program (which has conducted more than 4 million retail mystery-shop compliance drills). Though both organizations were founded in the 1990s, in 2012 Train and Verify created a one-stop solution built around licensing We Card’s training and BARS’ mystery-shopping service.

David Gaudet, president of the BARS Program, said the synergy between his company’s services and We Card’s training was too obvious to ignore.

“Train and Verify’s one-stop program is an outcome of the call for training and mystery shopping as outlined in the FDA Guidance on Tobacco Retailer Training Programs,” he said. “While the FDA did not endorse or recommend a particular brand of tobacco retailer training, the pairing of We Card training with mystery shopping into one place for retailers makes total sense for retailers looking to satisfy the new expectations created by the FDA.”

This synergy was not lost on Smoker Friendly. “We have had great success with both the BARS Program and We Card in prior years, so when David Gaudet approached us about the Train and Verify Program, it was a no brainer,” said Gallagher.  “The program has reinforced our zero-tolerance position concerning selling tobacco and other age-restricted products to consumers that are not of legal age. And, yes, I believe it has helped our company avoid violations.”

Smoker Friendly has grown to include 90 company-operated stores in Colorado and surrounding states and more than 800 authorized dealer stores in the United States.

“The ability to stay in business is at stake for all tobacco retailers,” Gallagher said. “Any retailer that does not take this responsibility seriously shines a bad light on all tobacco retailers. The reality is, there is just no room for any company in the marketplace that does not make it a priority.”

Scott Orr is a freelance writer for We Card