A new, stealthier approach is paying off for Interior Health’s goal of keeping cigarettes away from youth.
“We wanted to . . . mimic what is actually going on in the community,” said Jen Jacobsen, who oversees the compliance program.
Statistics show that it has made a difference as more retailers are being busted for selling tobacco products to minors.
In past years, retailer compliance was at 98 per cent across the region. That percentage is now at 88 for the region and 83 for Kamloops.
“We knew that the (compliance rate) would decrease when we went to a risk-based program,” said Jacobsen.
One change was to focus more on “high-risk” retailers such as convenience stores and gas stations.
And in an effort to be more realistic, said Jacobsen, IH is now forgoing sending in “innocent looking 14-year-old” as a test shopper in favour of teens who appear to indulge in vices.
Also different is the use of ID. Previously, minors acting as undercover shoppers would say they didn’t have ID.
That became a tip-off to non-compliant retailers that the youth was working with Interior Health.
Now minors are showing valid ID indicating they’re real age and even highlighting the date on which they turn the legal age of 19. Some retailers sold to them nonetheless.
Those retailers risk a variety of penalties from warning letters to fines to rescinding of their tobacco sales licence.
“And along with that comes nice signage they have to put on their door saying the reason they can’t sell cigarettes is because they sold to a minor,” said Jacobsen.
That penalty has never been issued in Kamloops, she said.