Sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products to adults are important to the economic viability of the convenience store industry, making up more than 30 percent of in-store sales. Therefore, the industry works hard to ensure tobacco products are kept out of the hands of minors.
Research shows that stringent store policies and limited accessibility make today's youngsters less inclined to buy their tobacco products from convenience stores. Learn more about youth access to tobacco in the NACS Magazine feature, "Youth & Tobacco."
NACS is a member of the We Card Program Inc., which offers retailers "We Card" tobacco education and training. The program has trained more than 300,000 retail employees and more than 1 million We Card kits have been distributed. In 2011, nearly 20,000 retail employees were trained using the We Card program's online training.
NACS members have worked with lawmakers to address remote sales of tobacco over the Internet and black market sales €" where there are no safeguards to prevent minors from accessing tobacco. It's critical that we continue to make sure we keep loopholes closed in the Internet world that allow minors to buy tobacco and have it delivered to their home without a single ID check.
NACS encourages retailers to adopt the "We Card" program at their stores and to develop and maintain mystery shopper programs. These programs are an effective way to measure performance and reinforce the importance of always following the steps of properly checking IDs and declining a sale when proper ID cannot be produced.
Retailers have a responsibility to train employees, post minimum-age signage, and support employees who support the law. The convenience store industry was at the lead in developing employee education programs and signage programs, and we continue to promote participation in all of our communications and member meetings.
Parents are the first line of defense against youth access to tobacco in communicating the message to their children that tobacco is illegal for minors.
Lawmakers are critical to the effort, ensuring that tobacco sales laws are effective and properly enforced. Lawmakers also need to ensure that just as there are deterrents for retailers to illegally selling tobacco to minors, there must also be deterrents to minors who illegally attempt to purchase tobacco €" and that there is accountability for everyone to help eliminate underage sales of tobacco.
Retailers have demonstrated a dramatic improvement in reducing youth access to tobacco products, as measured by retailer violation rates (RVR). Consider the results since the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) instituted annual monitoring in 1997 through the Synar Amendment, which requires states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18:
- FY 2006 was the first year that all states and D.C. were found in compliance with all Synar regulatory requirements, and this trend continued in FY 2010.
- The national weighted average rate of tobacco sales to minors as reported by the states and Washington D.C. in FY 2010 is 9.3 percent - the lowest RVR in the history of the Synar Program.
- In FY 2010, 47 of the 50 states and D.C. achieved an RVR below 15 percent, and 34 of the 50 achieved an RVR below 10 percent.
- Over the past 15 years, all states and D.C. have reached the overall Synar goal, achieving an RVR of no more than 20 percent.
According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2002 and 2009, past month use of any tobacco product decreased from 30.4 to 27.7 percent, and past month cigarette use declined from 26.0 to 23.3 percent.