Time to clear the air

The Health (Scotland) Act 2016 brought in a number of restrictions around the promotion and sale of nicotine vapour products with penalties for those who do not comply. So what do convenience retailers need to know?

LEGISLATION affecting the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes has been coming into force in recent months and to help retailers understand the new rules and ensure they adhere to the law the Scottish Grocers’ Federation has compiled a comprehensive guide for retailers.

Since November 2016, newly produced e-cigarettes must include an information leaflet and carry a health warning, covering at least 30% of the front and back of the pack.

And by 20 May it will be illegal to sell any packs that do not carry these warnings.
In its guide, Nicotine Vapour Product and Tobacco Compliance in Scotland, the SGF details each of the new laws and provides advice on how retailers can best comply.

Firstly, it looks at minimum age requirement and points out that as of last month, retailers are required to operate an age verification policy to check the age of anyone trying to buy a tobacco product, cigarette papers or a nicotine vapour product.

The guide says: “Many of you will already use the Challenge 25 scheme for your sale of alcohol and you can extend this to cover tobacco, cigarette papers and NVPs. “Other forms of age verification policy are also permitted.”

It adds that it makes sense to have a written document for age verification that staff can refer to and that staff should have regular training and says: “Your staff should be encouraged to challenge and to refuse the sale if they have any doubts.

“It is good practice to record any sale refusals they make in a refusals register.”
The guide adds that, as well as the statutory warning notice which must be displayed in a prominent position at the point of sale, it is advisable to have posters that warn customers that their age could be challenged.

It is an offence, it points out, to allow a member of staff who is under 18 to sell NVPs unless that staff member has been authorised by the shop owner or manager to sell them and a record of that authorisation has been kept.

The guide adds: “You have a duty to keep a record of each staff member who is under 18 and has authorisation from you to sell these products at each shop.”
It continues: “Anyone under the age of 18 should be made aware that if they do not follow the age verification policy then it is you as the registered retailer who may be prosecuted.”

Also since 1 April, anyone who sells NVP products must be on the Retail Register for Tobacco.
Even if you already have a certificate for the registration of your tobacco business, the guide points out, if you sell NVPs you must apply to change your registration to record that you sell both tobacco and NVPs.
It warns: “You have until 30 September 2017 to register the change, after which time, if you have not done so, you will be committing an offence.”

And adds: “Failing to register your tobacco or NVP business could result in a fine of up to £20,000, and six months in prison or both.”
It outlines penalties for other offences as: “If you are guilty of an offence for selling tobacco and/or NVPs to someone under the age of 18 years then you may be fined up to £2,500.

“Failing to operate an age verification policy carries a fine of up to £500 and failing to authorise sales of tobacco, cigarette papers or NVPs by a member of staff who is under 18 could result in a fine of up to £200.”
It adds that retailers who persistently breach any laws around tobacco or NVP sales may be subject to a banning order which prevents them from selling such products in their store for up to two years.

It says: “The Scottish Government has confirmed that it won’t be enforcing the penalties for non-compliance with the tobacco and NVP register until 1 October 2017.”

Other new rules include that from 1 April the law prohibiting proxy purchasing of tobacco products – buying such products for someone you know to be under 18 – has been extended to cover the purchase of NVPs.
And the sale of NVPs from vending machines will be banned before the end of 2017 in line with the EU technical notification directive. Breach of this change will carry a penalty.

Distinguishing between traditional cigarettes and the electronic version, the guide points out that e-cigarettes and other nicotine vapour products do not need to be covered at the point of sale, saying: “As an NVP is not a tobacco product or a smoking related product, they do not need to be covered up at point of sale but remember that you should not incidentally display a tobacco or smoking related product when you sell NVPs, matches or lighters.”