The final, much-anticipated launch of the new national ID card next month comes at a time when retailers are increasingly being singled out and persecuted for not asking for ID often enough.

Identity crisis

The final, much-anticipated launch of the new national ID card next month comes at a time when retailers are increasingly being singled out and persecuted for not asking for ID often enough.

Trading standards group Lacors has compiled a year’s- worth of failed test purchases for tobacco and concluded that the current fines are too lenient and that one in five retailers is prepared to sell to youngsters “willingly”.

I think we all know this figure is wrong. Yes, mistakes are made, and some retailers are less scrupulous than others, but not one in five. And not willingly.

In its official release, Lacors makes no mention of how many test purchases were actually passed, but surely the relative pass/fail percentage would be a much more accurate measure of performance than a single failure being counted as a “willingness” to sell to youngsters? And, in any case, it seems to suggest that the only consequence of a prosecution that is worth anything to a retailer is a fine, not the loss of reputation that would follow. With margins on cigarettes not exactly monumental, it’s really not worth it on any basis.

It’s only two years since the minimum purchase age was raised from 16 to 18, and you might remember there wasn’t much official fanfare at the time. The onus was on the trade to communicate it to customers, but very little onus was put on communicating it to the trade.

In other words, retailers are expected to do all the legwork, take the flak in-store, but also to take the blame for any mistakes that occur. If there really is a problem with youth smoking in this country, it’s time for the council jobsworths to work with the trade, rather than trying to grab headlines by dishing the dirt.

Send back the waste

With increasingly stringent waste disposal regulations coming into force, larger convenience stores will soon need to collect used batteries on top of all the other waste they handle. And it’s not impossible to imagine that in the future they will be forced to deal with used carrier bags and excess product packaging in a compulsory rather than voluntary way.

Manufacturers have spent a lot of effort in recent months reducing product packaging, but what we don’t have is a supply chain that works in reverse. Why don’t the same vehicles that deliver the product take away the ‘empties’ as well? And we could make more use of cash and carries as collection points for anything that needs to be recycled or disposed of carefully.

I hope that, as an industry, we are able to discuss how this could work in a planned and structured way.