Are you an e-cig reseller? We’ve put this guide together for both our shop staff and for our resellers, and it’s something you might find useful too.
Update: We’ve worked with Trading Standards to improve and update the PDF version of this guide. To get your free copy just click on the download link below. You’ll also find instructions on how to request a free age-restrictions poster to display in your shop.
Since we started in the e-cig industry back in 2008, every responsible seller I know has enforced a age limit on electronic cigarettes. Fast forward seven years, and the government has finally started to catch up, making it mandatory to enforce a no under-18 policy under the threat of fines and even a criminal record.
This short guide explains what the legislation is, why you need to comply and best practices to avoid fines and even a criminal record.
Updated PDF Guide + Poster
Thanks to assistance from Trading Standards, we’ve now updated and improved the PDF version of this guide. If you are a retailer, you can also request a free age restrictions poster. (It may not increase sales, but it is required by law). To download the guide (which includes exclusive information not in this blog post) just click below.
Want a savable/printable PDF version of this guide? Just click above to get one.
Restrictions and Penalties
Selling nicotine inhaling products, cartridges containing nicotine or e-liquid containing nicotine to persons under the age of 18 is now against the law. There are harsh penalties for companies which break the law, including:
- a criminal record for the person who sold to the under-18
- a fine for the person who sold to the under-18
- a fine for the company which was responsible for the sale
With the best will in the world, it’s impossible to monitor all staff all the time, and despite your efforts an accidental sale is always possible. Your best defence in that scenario is to show due diligence and follow (and recording) the steps described here.
Challenge 25/Challenge 21
At ECigaretteDirect we are implementing a Challenge 25 policy, with a policy that anyone who looks under the age of 25 should be asked for ID. An alternative is a Challenge 21 policy.
Acceptable ID includes:
- Driving Licence
- Proof of Age Standards (PASS) Card
- Current Passport
Due to strict policies on tobacco and alcohol, most people lucky enough to look young will be used to age challenges.
Initial guidance concerning necessary signage is lacking , and in fact there has been some contradictory advice. (We’ve contacted Trading Standards and are waiting confirmation on this point.) However, it is an offence not to display a sign for alcohol and tobacco sales, with a fine of £1000 for shops which do not comply. Both from a safety point of view and to educate customers, we recommend displaying a poster explaining that sales to under 18’s are banned.
At ECigaretteDirect, we’ve created a custom Challenge 25 poster. If you’d like a copy for your shop, please let our wholesale account manager, Hannah, know.
Not only is it essential to train staff to comply with the new regulations, you also need to be able to demonstrate you have done so in order to protect your company from a fine should that staff member break the law.
During training, emphasise to staff that selling to under-18s affects them personally, with a fine and criminal record. At ECigaretteDirect, we also point out that they will have secret shoppers coming to their shops, and that failure to comply with the policy is a disciplinary offence.
In summary, staff need to know:
- which products are age restricted (although we recommend a complete ban on selling e-cig products and e-liquid to under-18s, even if nicotine free)
- what the age restriction is
- the action they must take if they believe a person under 18 is attempting to buy.
One way method we used to really get the policy across to our shop colleagues recently was to use an interactive quiz. First we got our colleagues to view a presentation on age restrictions and marketing. We then got colleagues to take the quiz – allowing them to retake it if they didn’t get full marks! By using an interactive app, we were able to monitor who took the quiz, and remind colleagues who hadn’t taken it.
This was a great first step, but the message still needs constant reinforcement (especially when it comes to logging all refusals). Remember it only takes one error to land you in trouble and give the whole industry a bad name!
Important: Ensure all staff sign to show they have received the training, and understand the regulations. Keep a record of signed training logs. This will assist with showing your due diligence in complying with the regulations.
A refusals log enables to show you due diligence. Some till systems allow this to be logged electronically, but if you don’t have this you can use a paper refusals log. Ensure you keep a copy of your refusals logs in case of future challenges. If you’d like a sample refusals log to use in your own shop, just let us know.
To ensure compliance with the regulations, we recommend secret shopping with a young looking (but over 18!) shopper. This can be time consuming to organise yourself, and it may be more cost effective to do it via a specialist company.
For more information or for free posters contact our wholesale accounts manager, Hannah, on [email protected]
You’ll notice that this guide purely covers shops. In a recent consultation on implementing new EU legislation, the government indicated it believes the need for a credit card is a sufficient guard against under-18’s buying nicotine containing products. Despite that, current legislation requires us to have age verification software.
In practice, as a number of different systems are being built, we are being allowed some time to assess the different systems. In the meantime, most e-cig retailers are using a pop-up to require customers to self-verify their age. This is insufficient, but at least shows willing.
Cross border age controls are being demanded by the EU from May 2016 onwards, but the government is not aware of any EU wide system of age verification.
What steps have you taken to ensure your shops don’t sell to under-18’s? Let me know in the comments below!