Twenty years ago the national “We Card” program was launched to help combat youth access to tobacco. Back in 1995, those underage could more easily buy tobacco at retail stores with some reports indicating a 40-60 percent success rate.
Today, after years of efforts to prevent underage tobacco sales, it’s down to roughly 10 percent according to the federal government’s published 2013 Synar Report measuring illegal tobacco sales to minors. In California, the retail violation rate was 8.7 percent.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the We Card Program’s September-held, We Card Awareness Month, seeks to boost responsible retailing awareness along with the availability of 2016 We Card materials.
From Labor Day to New Year’s Eve, retailers prepare for the coming year by ordering We Card in-store materials and lining up their employees for We Card’s online training courses.
To keep up with the times, We Card has launched several new items in its 20th year, including:
- A new smartphone site – We Card NOW – www.wecardnow.com — providing retail management and employees with quick access to its resources, including an Age Calculator and digital version of its 365-page a day calendar that store cashiers use to “card” customers.
- New resources to help merchants of e-vapor products identify and deny minors’ attempts to purchase, such as:
- New “Under 18, No E-Vapor: WE CARD” in-store signage.
- A new in-store E-Vapor kit of resources that is especially suited for “vape” stores who are new to the concept of handling age-restricted product sales.
- An “E-Cig and Vapor Central” dedicated home on wecard.org where resources can be quickly found, ordered and used.
“We Card was a pioneering program in 1995 to help introduce the concept of responsible retailing on a massive scale and “carding” was a sometimes used term. Today, carding is commonplace and We Card is forging new resources for all age-restricted products, including those designed to prevent e-vapor product sales to minors,” said Lyle Beckwith, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores, and a We Card board member.
Preventing e-vapor sales to minors is especially important since over the past few years nearly all states have quickly adjusted their state laws to include e-cigarettes and vaping products within their tobacco or age-restricted product sales laws. At the federal level, the FDA has proposed “deeming” e-vapor products under its authority, and “carding” and denying sales to minors will be added as another retailer requirement.
“The landscape of age-restricted product sales is changing,” said Doug Anderson, President of We Card, “however, the fundamentals of handling those underage attempts remain largely the same – identify the underage purchase attempt and deny it.”
FDA has completed more than 461,000 retailer compliance checks since 2010 — at a rate of approximately 100,000 in recent years. FDA has issued official guidance for Tobacco Retailer Training Programs and We Card’s elearning training not only matches this federal curriculum but exceeds it with retail-focused emphasis on customer service, role-playing and interactive gaming – earning the training an American Business Awards 2013 Bronze Stevie® Award as a Best Training Site.
The California Grocers Association encourages all retailers to continue in their efforts to successfully identify and prevent age-restricted product sales to minors.
To visit the We Card website, click here.
About We Card: The We Card Program, Inc. is a national non-profit organization that represents a unified effort among trade associations, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. It was created 20 years ago to support retailers of tobacco and other age-restricted products. Individual retail establishments as well as large retail chains use We Card’s educational and training services to comply with federal and state laws while working to prevent underage tobacco, e-vapor and other age-restricted product sales. National and state retail trade associations, government officials, community groups and others also support We Card’s ongoing efforts to educate and train retailers.