New findings from the Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme have revealed low levels of underage sales training among convenience stores and newsagents.

Almost 90% of retailers judged to be “at risk” of failing an official council-led test purchase, have no, or inadequate training, in place for underage sales.

The vast majority (66.3%) simply provide undocumented ad hoc, verbal training, while 21.1% have no training provision at all for staff.

The Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme was launched in March 2015 by Japan Tobacco International, Philip Morris Limited and Imperial Tobacco Limited.

As part of the programme, thousands of independent retailers have been mystery shopped to see if they are ‘at risk’ of selling tobacco to under 18s.

So far almost 680 retailers across the North West, Yorkshire & Humberside, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England and Wales have been identified as ‘at risk’.

They have since been offered free compliance support from Under Age Sales, and the opportunity to undertake accredited BTEC training.

John Cassin, senior compliance advisor for Under Age Sales, said: “Adequate staff training is a vital part of establishing due diligence and ensuring all members of your team understand and can adhere to the law. Ad hoc, verbal training which isn’t documented is not enough – retailers need to make sure they keep training records, including workbooks which staff can complete, safely.

“It’s been eye-opening just how few retailers have adequate and documented training in place, but it’s good that we’ve been able to identify this issue now so we can work with retailers to ensure they improve their training practices and procedures.

“By helping retailers take the necessary steps to comply to legislation and best practice, we’re not only helping to protect them but also helping to prevent under 18s accessing tobacco.

“We’ve had a good response from the retailers we’ve met and it’s positive that we can all work together to raise standards across the board and make a real difference to communities.”

In 2016, the programme will be rolled out to Scotland, Northern Ireland and the South West; and in 2017 to the South East.