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“Can I See Your ID?”: Grocers, Convenience Stores Emphasize ID Checks as Part of We Card Awareness Month

Retailers focus on employee training to prevent sales of alcohol, vape pens and tobacco products to minors

The customer purchasing that pack of cigarettes, vaping pen or six-pack of beer might look21 — but without actually asking, it’s difficult for retail employees to know for sure.  

That’s why, during the month of September, grocers and convenience stores in Washington state are ramping up training efforts to help employees better screen customers who may be underage and attempting to buy age-restricted products. The heightened focus is part of “We Card Awareness Month,” a campaign designed to help retailers keep tobacco, vape products and alcohol out of the hands of minor.

The WashingtonFood Industry Association is supporting the effort with the backing of Gov. JayInslee, who issued a proclamation declaring September as “We Card Awareness Month.”

“We support the We Card Awareness program because it provides retailers with the training and support they need to make those tough but important decisions at the check stand,” said WFIA President & CEO Tammie Hetrick. “In Washington state, it is illegal to purchase alcohol, tobacco or vaping products if you are under 21. Retailers can play an important role in efforts to stop these purchases from happening. But it requires additional training and support for our employees,and that’s what makes this month of heightened awareness and training so critical.” 

Retailers involved in the We Card program also have access to education and training for their employees, teaching them how to accurately check for proper identification and how to handle difficult situations that can occur in stores. 

Checking ID during the pandemic – given social distancing and mask requirements — was an even greater challenge than usual. With those rules now relaxed, retailers are redoubling their efforts to help their employees prepare for those moments at the checkout.

Purchases made by underage customers are just one piece of the puzzle. According to industry research, 80percent of youth who get access to tobacco, alcohol or vape products do so through “social sourcing“ — youth asking adults to acquire the products for them. As a result, targeting adult purchasers remains a primary component of the program.

Data from Washington state’s Healthy Youth Survey indicates that 80 percent of 10thgrade students reported getting e-cigarettes 80 percent of the time from non-commercial sources. This includes “borrowing” or “bumming” them from someone else; getting them from someone 18 years or older; or taking them from a store or family member.

“We want young people to lead healthy, productive lives, and that means keeping age-restricted products out of their hands. WFIA members are proud to be a part of this campaign and take responsibility for efforts to prevent sales of these age-restricted products to minors.”