We Card Program Enters 18th Year

Published in CSP Daily News

Calls for accelerated carding of minors

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The We Card program is entering its 18th year with a call to action for retailers, requesting stronger restriction of tobacco products to minors. The program, recognized by its ubiquitous yellow and red signage that warns "Under 18, No Tobacco: We Card," has been providing training and educational materials to retailers since 1995.

And as reported in CSP Daily News, September is We Card Awareness Month, named for one of the most successful corporate social responsibility efforts in America.

As part of its campaign to prevent underage access to tobacco products, We Card will also educate retailers nationwide about state laws that restrict e-cigarette sales to minors. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is considering regulations on e-cigarettes as part of its authority over tobacco granted by Congress in the 2009 as part of the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act.

"The good news is that youth access to tobacco at retail is down," said Doug Anderson, president of We Card. "Preventing illegal sales to minors remains a top priority for retailers and We Card."

Lyle Beckwith, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores and a We Card board member, said, "We can confidently say that We Card is one of, if not, the most successful corporate social responsibility efforts ever. Along with state and federal law enforcement, the nation's retailers through We Card have helped dramatically reduce youth access to tobacco."

September, We Card Awareness Month, is when retailers traditionally begin planning their compliance strategies for the coming year, ordering training for their employees along with signage and other tools. Orders are already coming in for the 2014 Age-of-Purchase Calendar, which gives retail workers a daily reminder and an age-calculation tool to identify and prevent underage attempts to purchase tobacco.

In the past 15 years, successful attempts by minors to purchase tobacco products have decreased from 40% down to 9.1%, according the 2012 Synar Report. Compliance with federal FDA regulations is even lower at about 6%, according to We Card's analysis of publicly available FDA data.

"We Card and all that it has accomplished is a significant achievement for our industry," said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association and founding board member of We Card. "I'm pleased that retailers stepped up and joined in a unified long-term effort to prevent minors from getting access to tobacco products."

Since 2010, when the FDA began enforcement at retail, nearly 200,000 compliance checks have been conducted at a rate of 6,000 to 10,000 inspections per month, in addition to the state inspections. Recently, We Card adjusted its online training to meet FDA's guidelines for Tobacco Retailer Training Programs.

The We Card Program Inc. is a national nonprofit organization that represents a unified effort among trade associations, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. It was created to support retailers of tobacco and other age-restricted products. Individual retail establishments as well as large retail chains use We Card's educational and training services to comply with federal and state laws while working to prevent underage tobacco and age-restricted product sales. National and state retail trade associations, government officials, community groups and others also support We Card's ongoing efforts to educate and train retailers.