SAN FRANCISCO —With electronic cigarettes—especially flavored vaping pods—attracting increased scrutiny from government officials and lawmakers, Juul Labs has developed the Retail Access Control Standards (RACS) program, a new system for retailers’ point-of-sale (POS) to help them navigate age verification. Bob Robbins, president of Juul Americas, San Francisco, shared details with CSP about the new program.
Describe the new RACS program and how it works.
RACS is a standards-based program that retailers can integrate within their POS system. Under RACS, every retail POS system immediately locks when a Juul product is scanned and remains locked until a retailer electronically scans a valid, of-age government-issued ID to verify both the age and the ID validity. Additionally, RACS imposes automatic limits on the amount of product a legal-age customer can purchase.
What are its goals?
RACS offers the entire retail industry an effective tool to materially reduce underage access to age-restricted products, including vapor products such as Juul. RACS directly combats two large drivers of underage access: failure to check and verify ID, and legal-age individuals buying bulk quantities of age-restricted products to resell to minors.
How will implementation work?
RACS is a set of standards retailers can tailor their POS systems to adhere to. To increase ease of retailer certification, we have partnered with premier service providers to build and deploy technology integrations.
What’s the rollout time frame and what are its milestones?
Over 50 retail chains, totaling more than 40,000 outlets, have already committed to being RACS-compliant. More than 7,000 of those stores are currently in the process of implementing RACS, and we expect more than 15,000 stores to implement by the end of 2019. By mid-2020, we expect that more than half of our sales volume will be through retailers who are RACS-compliant, and plan to stop distributing Juul products to any retailer that isn’t RACS-certified by May 2021. It is no small task to change retail systems and processes at tens of thousands of retail locations. It is expensive, complex and could cause friction with legal-age customers. To expedite the adoption of these standards, we are providing more than $100 million of incentives and financial support to retailers that implement RACS by May 2021.
How are retailers responding to public concerns over underage use of e-cigarettes?
We are encouraged by the initial adoption of RACS by so many retail chains, which demonstrates the commitment many retailers are willing to make to combat underage use. We greatly value our relationships with U.S. retailers, who are often on the front lines to keep these products out of the hands of youth and offer alternatives to adult smokers, which is why so many have come out in support of this innovative technology. As our partners know, POS technology must evolve to ensure our kids and communities are protected. We look forward to working closely with retailers throughout the country to implement these measures, which will help us preserve the historic opportunity the vapor category provides.
How can the industry tackle underage use of vaping products?
Through our collective efforts, we can significantly reduce youth use of all vapor products, including Juul products, while at the same time ensuring that adult smokers maintain access to a product that is helping millions of them switch from combustible cigarettes. We believe RACS can drive necessary categorywide change to reverse the trend in youth use of vapor products. We look forward to working with our retailer partners, various trade associations and other stakeholders to offer a real solution.
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