Selling Tobacco & Vape to A Minor
Selling Tobacco to a Minor
If you run a convenience store, gas station, or other retail location, the risk of selling tobacco or vape to a minor is a headache that comes with the territory.
- Yes, you’ve put up the signs.
- Yes, you’ve trained your staff.
- Yes, you've tried “We Card” and the paper calendars that you have to remember to buy and update every year.
- And yes, you’re diligent about your checkout process.
But all it takes is one mistake on a busy night to get slapped with a fine and a misdemeanor. And unfortunately, it’s easier than you think.
Selling Tobacco / Vape To A Minor: An Ever-Present Risk
The average nationwide violation rate for selling tobacco / vape to a minor has been hovering around 10% now for over a decade (9.6% as last reported in 2018.
In fact, since 2011 retailer violation rates have been increasing, and the FDA is stepping up their game.
And because in a number of states, violation rates are still upwards of 18%, not only has federal enforcement increased, but strong enforcement is being conducted at state and local levels as well.
To complicate the issue further, in 2020, the FDA raised the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, increasing the population of buyers that need to be screened and declined. And the burden of prevention of underage use primarily falls on the retailer - you.
The fines and inspections keep on coming...
From 2013 to 2018, agents of the FDA office of compliance and enforcement has facilitated the commissioning of more than 700 local government officers and employees who have collectively conducted more than 1 million compliance check inspections.
These inspectors conduct two types of compliance check inspections for FDA.
- The first type of compliance check inspection is generally an undercover purchase by a team composed of an FDA-commissioned inspect- tor and minor to determine whether retailers are checking identification and if they are selling regulated tobacco products to minors.
- The second type of compliance check inspection involves only FDA- commissioned inspectors and generally determines compliance with other retail provisions in effect, such as the restrictions on impersonal modes of sales (i.e., vending machines and self-service displays), the ban on cigarettes with certain characterizing flavors, and the ban on the sale of packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes. During this type of inspection, inspectors present the retailer with a notice of inspection and announce their presence by showing their FDA credentials.
Between Oct. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2018, OCE issued more than 70,000 warning letters to retailers for violations observed during compliance check inspections.
Between Oct. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2018, OCE issued more than 18,000 civil money penalty complaints.
That’s 88,000 that failed inspections.
The bottom line is: if you sell tobacco, your establishment is going to get inspected this year.
Assuming you change nothing, you have a 10-20% chance of failing that inspection.
Is that a chance you want to take?
Minor Decliner pays for itself, being less than the cost of multiple fines.