tobacco ban display

Almost half of independent retailers are failing to correctly challenge younger customers to prove their age when buying tobacco products, a major mystery shopper trial has shown.

Only 54% of retailers surveyed in more than 4,000 individual transactions carried out last year required identification as proof-of-age, and 84% were found to have no proper written policy on age verification.

Responsible Tobacco Retailing Programme, which conducts an annual report into the trade, said that despite evidence of an increase in compliance with regulations - up 9% on the previous year - the mystery shops revealed a lax culture by many shopkeepers and retailers, who failed to properly train staff members selling tobacco products.

In its latest report the body, which was established by the UK tobacco industry, says that 16% of all the retailers inspected had no training in place at all for staff when it came to selling tobacco, while only 21% had proper documented training.

The mystery shops were carried out in all eight regions where the Responsible Tobacco Retailing Programme is active, to provide regional performance analysis. These revealed the East of England and the East Midlands to have the most thorough retailers, with 64% and 62% of servers challenging younger customers respectively - significantly higher than the national average of 54%.

Tony Allen, managing director of staff training company Under Age Sales, which specialises in training for ‘at risk’ companies, said: “While the findings show there are many responsible retailers out there who are compliant, it has revealed that many do need support to ensure they understand and follow the law.

“We want to work together to not only guarantee young people are unable to purchase cigarettes and tobacco, but to also safeguard retailers against the potential execution of such transactions.”