Tobacco manufacturer JTI is launching a new initiative to support retailers in complying with the law on underage sales.

Beginning this autumn, across the North West of England, the JTI pilot scheme will support and develop the knowledge of independent and convenience retailers in the vital area of youth access prevention for age restricted goods.

In a recent survey of 500 independent retailer conducted by JTI, nearly a third of respondents (32%) admitted that they did not have any formal training for their staff to prevent under- age sales. 

JTI has invested £400,000 into the pilot scheme, as a demonstration of its commitment to youth smoking prevention, and its desire to train and develop retailers. The support available incorporates three core elements: compliance testing, staff training and strengthening the ‘No ID, No Sale’ campaign.

Paul Williams, JTI’s Head of Corporate Affairs, said: "In the UK, the good news is that the percentage of underage smokers is falling. Hhowever the North West has historically been a region with one of the highest levels of underage smoking. JTI’s position is clear, children should not smoke, and JTI is committed to playing a role in ensuring that children do not have access to tobacco products. We are pleased to be able to support retailers and their staff with the tools and training that they need.”

Williams continued: “While the Youth Access Prevention campaign is focused on the retail trade it is important to recognise that nearly 50% of children claimed to have access to cigarettes through peer groups or family and 15% through other sources, including illegal traders. It is imperative that legitimate retailers and their staff stay up to date with the law, as a failure to do so could put them and their business at risk.

“Through a combination of test purchasing to see which businesses may be under threat and training for those that need assistance, we will raise performance levels in this crucial area. There can be no excuses for poor performance, and by supporting retailers, particularly those who may not be able to fund their own training in this area, we hope to raise standards.”

Shane Brennan, ACS’s Public Affairs Director, said: “ACS welcomes JTI’s commitment to this programme. Preventing sales of all age-restricted products, not just tobacco, is a 24/7 challenge for retailers. They face tough penalties for any mistakes or oversights and there is no excuse for poor standards, training or procedures. The JTI pilot scheme which includes professional training is a great example of a major manufacturer supporting retailers to raise standards. I would encourage retailers to take advantage of this free support.”