Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has announced that it will launch an enhanced youth access prevention programme targeting underperforming areas across the UK.

This scheme is an extension to the previous three-year national Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme that JTI supported between 2015 and 2018.

The programme is designed to identify retailers who may be at risk of selling tobacco products to under-18s, and then to offer those retailers free-of-charge professional training provided by former trading standards officers. In a change to the previous scheme, any retailers assessed as “At Risk” four times in a row will be notified to the relevant law enforcement agencies for further follow up.

The local authority areas selected all have the highest proportion of premises identified as “At Risk” of selling tobacco products to under-18s in the previous three years’ work and/or the highest teenage smoking prevalence rates.

This enhanced programme has been developed in partnership with Serve Legal, a leading provider in testing compliance on sales of age restricted products, and under age sales, a nationally recognised training company which offers specialist advice to retailers about how to avoid illegal sales to children and young people.

Charlie Cunningham-Reid, head of corporate affairs at JTI, said: “The aim of the Responsible Tobacco Retailing scheme is to tackle the problem of underage sales by providing training and support for retailers in this area. This enhanced Programme demonstrates JTI’s continued commitment to playing a full role in youth smoking prevention.”

Julian Sargeson, director at Serve Legal, commented: “We urge every retailer to take age-check testing seriously. Those that believe that responsible retailing doesn’t matter to the bottom line are misinformed. Failure to invest in staff training, performance and processes around age identification checks puts any retailer at risk of selling tobacco to minors and to the penalties of being caught doing so.”

Anne-Marie Canham, managing director at Under Age Sales, stated: “The unlawful sale of age-restricted sales to minors is a major headache for retailers and poses a huge risk to their livelihoods. The assistance provided by this programme has been welcome support and has helped them to build confidence to tackle this important issue.