Japan Tobacco International’s (JTI) youth access prevention scheme, ‘IDentify’, has substantially increased the compliance rate of retailers in Manchester from an initial 35% pass rate during the first round of test-purchasing to 95% by round four.

The programme aims to reduce the number of independent premises ‘At Risk’ of selling tobacco and vaping products to minors. The scheme includes up to four rounds of ‘mystery shopping’ which is interspersed with two rounds of training per retailer.

JTI worked with Age Check Certification Services Ltd (ACCS) to implement the scheme, which for the first time includes vaping products alongside tobacco. The free-of-charge professional training is provided by qualified ACCS Trading Standards professionals.

The Manchester operation visited 288 retail outlets with 85 stores receiving compliance advice, support and training. 28 of these stores then received an enhanced audit, which highlighted where retailers may be making mistakes and to re-enforce the importance of checking for proof of age.

“There can be no excuses when it comes to underage sales, but we recognise that retailers’ jobs aren’t easy. This programme demonstrates JTI’s continued commitment to supporting retailers and preventing minors from having access to smoking or vaping products,” said Charlie Cunningham-Reid, head of corporate affairs at JTI.

Any retailer assessed as ‘At Risk’ four times in a row as part of the programme will be notified to the relevant law enforcement agencies, the firm added.

“The unlawful sale of tobacco products to under-18’s poses a real challenge for retailers, but it could ultimately result in law enforcement action, fines or even a loss of their livelihood. We urge all retailers, large or small, to take age-check testing seriously and employ a Challenge 25 policy for all age-restricted goods,” Tony Allen, founder of ACCS, said.