NYACS Applauds Progress in Preventing Youth Access to Tobacco

ALBANY, NY (01/02/2019) (readMedia)-- The New York Association of Convenience Stores today commended New York's neighborhood retail stores for achieving a record-high level of underage tobacco sales prevention, but said there is still more work to be done.

The latest report on underage tobacco sales enforcement, newly posted by the New York State Department of Health (available here) shows that during the 12 months ending March 31, 2016, 95.8 percent of stores refused to sell tobacco to undercover minors working with health inspectors – the highest compliance rate since the inspection program began in 1998.

"Twenty years ago, nearly one in five of these stings resulted in a sale to a minor," said NYACS President Jim Calvin. "Today, the failure rate is less than one in 20. That's terrific progress. But even one underage sale is too many, so retailers must remain highly vigilant every minute of every day."

The report highlights the accomplishments of the state's Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA), which requires retailers to verify the age of tobacco purchasers in order to prevent minors from purchasing cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or other tobacco products. A first violation can cost a store a $300 to $1,000 fine. A second brings a fine of $500 to $1,500 plus possible suspension of the store's tobacco and lottery licenses for six months.

Calvin attributed the improvement in underage sales prevention to two main factors:

- Diligent ATUPA enforcement by state and local health departments; and

- Voluntary, good-faith steps taken by responsible retailers to prevent underage sales.

"Our members have adopted strict ID policies, trained and re-trained their employees, deployed 'We Card' signage and calendars, even had employees sign affidavits acknowledging their age-verification responsibilities," Calvin noted. "In some cases, they hire an outside company to do simulated compliance checks, to detect any weakness in their execution. Some program their cash registers to lock out a tobacco transaction until the purchaser's date of birth is manually entered. Retailers are using whatever tools they can."

"As parents, citizens, and responsible retailers, we share the community's commitment to preventing youth access to tobacco, and the improving compliance rate reflects that," Calvin said.

Headquartered in Albany, the New York Association of Convenience Stores is a private, not-for-profit trade association representing 8,700 licensed neighborhood mini-marts and convenience stores across the state.