The potential fallout for retailers of the decision to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases lies squarely with the government and its communication plan, according to the startling results of our survey on retailers' attitudes towards the age hike, which comes into force on October 1 this year.
The exclusive survey of 101 independent retailers - conducted by The Knowledge Store on behalf of Convenience Store - reveals that 79% support the government's decision to raise the minimum legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18, but 90% of retailers say it is either 'vital' or 'very important' that the age change is accompanied by some sort of consumer advertising campaign, with one in four retailers stressing the vital importance of the campaign.When it comes to timing, as many as 90% of retailers say this campaign needs to start 'immediately'.
If the government fails to make its communications campaign effective enough, the repercussions could be serious. Already, a shocking 13% of retailers or their staff are subjected to verbal abuse every single day following a refusal to sell an age-restricted product to a customer. A further 12% say a refusal results in verbal abuse twice a week, and another 11% monthly.
Even more disturbing, a refusal to sell an age-restricted product has resulted in violence towards a retailer or their staff for 30% of respondents. Six per cent say this happens monthly, 2% weekly, 1% twice a week, and 21% less frequently than once a month.
Most independent retailers are preparing themselves for the minimum age increase, with 88% saying they intend to give their staff more training prior to October.
Despite the evident concerns about the government's communication plan, many retailers are having positive experiences with Trading Standards and the police when it comes to test purchasing of age-restricted products.
The survey reveals that 35% of retailers always get feedback after a test purchase, and a further 28% say they often get useful advice from Trading Standards or the police. But just under a quarter never get any feedback regarding test purchasing at all.
Do you welcome the government's decision to raise the minimum legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18 from October 1 this year?
No opinion 11%
How important is it that the government advertises this age change to consumers?
Very important 65%
Quite important 9%
Not very important 1%
when should the government start communicating the legal age change to consumers?
Four months before 5%
Three months before 4%
One month before 1%
What policy do you use to control the sale of age-restricted goods?
No ID No Sale 89%
ID if purchaser looks under 21/Challenge 21 11%
Do you intend to give your staff more training prior to the legal purchasing age change in October?
How often does a refusal to sell an age-restricted product to
a customer result in verbal abuse for you and your staff?
Every day 13%
Twice a week 12%
Twice a month 7%
Less often 34%
How often does refusal to sell an age-restricted product to
a customer result in violence?
Twice a week 1%
Less often 21%
How would you describe your relationship with trading standards and the police regarding test purchasing of age-restricted products?
They do test purchases and always give me feedback 35%
They often give
useful advice 28%
They do test purchases but I never get any feedback 24%
I never hear from them 13%