ID Checks

If you’re a tobacco retailer, you know how important it is to check IDs at the register even when the customer looks old enough to buy adult tobacco products, but sometimes it’s a challenge to stay FDA compliant.

> By the book.

Retailers are on the front lines when it comes to preventing tobacco sales to minors. That’s why checking the IDs of anyone who looks under the age of 27 is so important. Better to err on the side of caution. But sometimes customers forget their IDs, or are otherwise unable to provide them, and it can be difficult to insist on seeing IDs in the moment.

Don’t fold under the pressure of a stubborn customer. Saying “no” is easier when you know the facts and have some good talking points.

Here are a few ways you can respond in stressful moments:

Q: Come on, man, I just left my ID at home. You know me. I come in here all the time.
A: I’m really sorry, but it’s against the law and I could get fired. Come back with your ID and I’ll take care of you.

Q: You want to check my ID? I’m 30. Come on, just sell me the cigarettes.
A: Well, you’re doing a great job, because you don’t look a day over 27 to me, and when you look that young, it’s the law to check!

Q: Are you serious? I’m old enough. Why do you care, anyway?
A: I totally get it, but I don’t want to lose my job or get my boss in trouble. I’m really sorry, but I have to see your ID first.

Knowing the math and avoiding penalties.

Even when you’re carding all your tobacco customers, it can be easy to get into such a routine that you don’t fully comprehend their birth date. It’s possible to inadvertently sell to minors when the store is busy and filled with distractions, and it helps to be armed with a few tools to help you determine age quickly.

The FDA created an age calculator app which can be helpful when checking ID’s at the counter, but sometimes workplace no-phone-use policies make this difficult to use. If you need to double check a date at a glance, Age-of-purchase POS calendars can be handy, too.

If an ID reveals that the tobacco user is underage, just hand it back and let them know that it’s against the law, and store policy, to sell to minors.

Being the owner or employee of a tobacco retailer is a high-pressure position, but practicing your talking points and keeping an age calculator on-hand can make your job easier. And if you’re ever in the position of being questioned about compliance, you can cite all the ways you’ve prepared yourself or your staff, the tools you use to efficiently and accurately check ID’s, and even share your store’s compliance records.

Using these tools and getting comfortable having tough conversations is a great start to maintaining or improving compliance.

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