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JTI helps Brighton stores cut underage sales with mystery shopping project

January 25, 2021


Brighton stores have achieved compliance levels of 97 percent as part of a JTI-run project to identify and support businesses ‘at risk’ of selling vaping products and tobacco to minors.

Working with 154 stores in the city, the company used its youth access prevention scheme, “IDentify”, to demonstrate that ‘mystery shopping’ and professional on-site training successfully reduces the number of independent retailers whose responsible retailing standards puts them at risk of selling tobacco and vaping products to children.

Being ‘at risk’ is based on the failure of a retailer to follow a ‘Challenge 25’ process and ask the mystery shopper for ID to prove they are of legal age before the sale of vaping products or tobacco takes place.

Newly-released results from the first round of JTI’s latest project indicated that 58 percent of retailers were identified as being ‘at risk’ but after following specialist advice and in some cases, free-of-charge face-to-face training, only two retailers still remained in this category at the end of the four-stage process.

Worryingly, however, the final two incidents were because of the sale of vaping products, not tobacco. JTI says that as vaping has seen an increase in popularity and growth in recent years, it is necessary for responsible manufacturers to invest in programmes such as “IDentify” to cultivate higher levels of responsible retailing in the industry.

Ian Howell, fiscal and regulatory affairs manager at JTI, said: “While we accept that retailers’ jobs aren’t easy, there can be no excuses when it comes to underage sales of tobacco, vaping and other nicotine products and they should always follow the Challenge 25 process. The “Identify” scheme helps tackle the problem of underage sales of tobacco and vaping products by providing training and support for retailers – in particular to smaller, independent retailers who often don’t have the resources to provide the same level of staff training that larger stores do.”

Reports on these retailers have been submitted to Brighton Trading Standards, who have the legal powers to use under-age test purchasers to prove if illegal sales are taking place and then take the necessary enforcement action.

The mystery shoppers used in the “IDentify” scheme are over the legal age of 18, ensuring that no offence takes place if retailers fail a test purchase. Since the programme launched in 2014, “IDentify” has test-purchased over 16,000 retailers, over 3,000 have been provided with compliance audits and in-store training.