For the business owners who do get caught and penalized, you will be cited and fined. And it's not just you, but your employee as well.
For example, in states like California, the person selling tobacco to a minor is cited for a misdemeanor and pays the fine, while the owner may also be cited for the same infraction.
After the third violation, there may be additional penalties imposed, including increased fines, and even suspension or revocation of your tobacco sales license.
The FDA calls this a "no-tobacco-sale order" (NTSO), and it can be devastating for your business.
Why does it happen?
On the face of it, figuring out whether someone is under 18 or under 21 is easy. For example, just use the "minus 20, plus 2" method as suggested by the California Retailers and Youth Tobacco Laws training presentation.
Sure, easy enough to do sitting at your desk with ample time and no distractions. But think about the situation your employees often find themselves in.
According to a NACS study, an average convenience store transaction takes 21 seconds for the customer to complete the payment. That's 21 seconds to collect the ID, decode it, calculate the customer's age, decide on the sale/no sale, ring it up, collect the money, and provide the items to the customer.
In reality it's less then 5 seconds to look at the ID and make a decision on their age. And that's just on average. Try doing that when you add in long lines, grumpy customers in a hurry, fatigue, late nights... its easy to see why so many mistakes happen.
Sure you can put out a new sign for your employees each day, but that means you have to remember to update it. And when it gets busy there’s no guarantee your employee will even have the time to check. Further, refusing a sale is actually difficult. And often times, especially with new employees, they don’t know what to say.
All it takes is one mistake. And to be honest, it's surprising they don't happen more frequently.
Minor Decliner’s Age Verification Scanner
Prevents Fines for Selling Cigarettes to Minors
Our age verification scanner system is specifically designed to solve this problem. To ensure a fast, legal sale, every time. Without the hassle or risk of having your employees do mental math.
When you scan a driver’s license with our ID scanner it announces the pass or fail result in less than a second. With the ability to scan any US or Canadian license, this process:
- Prevents mistakes that inevitably happen when the store gets busy.
- Provides a fast ID check which reduces wait times and keeps customers paying quickly and efficiently.
- Will clearly announce underage patrons, which helps avoid potential confrontations and issues with customers (the system says "no" not the sales associate).
And the authorities agree: ID scanners really work! The FDA and local authorities love ID scanners for tobacco retailers.
The good news: Both states and FDA are on board with ID scanners as a solution to this problem.
Again from the FDA Guidance for Tobacco Retailers documentation:
“In determining whether to impose the NTSO or reduce the period of time FDA seeks to impose in the NTSO, FDA will generally consider whether a retailer has taken effective steps to prevent the sale of tobacco products in violation of the minimum age requirements, including:
- adopting and enforcing a written policy against sales to minors;
- informing its employees of all applicable laws;
- establishing disciplinary sanctions for employee noncompliance; and requiring its employees to verify age by way of photographic identification or electronic scanning device.”
In fact, Since 2010, 11 states now have Affirmative Defense ID scanner provisions laws (Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia). So if you’re using a scanner, you’re not liable.