Underage Tobacco Sales Found In Many New Jersey Retailers

Source: Patch.com New Jersey

Many New Jersey retailers sell tobacco products to underage buyers, even when the customer shows ID indicating they’re younger than 21, according to a newly released Rutgers University study.

The research consisted of five undercover buyers — ages 18-20 — attempting purchases at 86 retailers throughout the state between August 2019 and March 2020. The customers successfully bought tobacco products during 42.3 percent of visits. Retailers carded them 65.9 percent of the time, and customers successfully purchased tobacco 14 percent of the time after getting carded, according to the study, which was published Oct. 5.

When asked for ID, the buyers presented valid driver’s licenses that clearly showed they were younger than 21.

“The takeaway is that current conditions may prevent some easily discouraged buyers from acquiring tobacco products, but underage buyers who want tobacco products will have no trouble acquiring them,” said lead author Mary Hrywna, an assistant professor at the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and Rutgers School of Public Health. “Despite the law requiring stores to sell only to buyers at least 21 years of age, underage buyers are likely to find a store that will sell to them.”

The report does not specify the businesses from where they attempted or completed purchases. All stores fell within a 25-mile radius of New Brunswick. And some types of merchants halted underage transactions more often than others.
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The undercover buyers successfully purchased tobacco at nonchain convenience stores 57.8 percent of the time, while the businesses checked IDs 51 percent of the time. Gas kiosks allowed 48.7 percent of the transactions to go through, while looking over IDs during 56.4 percent of visits.

Drugstores and chain convenience stores prevented more underage purchases than their aforementioned competitors. In drugstores, study participants had to show ID during 87 percent of purchases, obtaining tobacco products 14.3 percent of the time. Chain convenience stores checked IDs during 84.7 percent of attempted transactions, letting purchases go through 26.1 percent of the time.

The study didn’t include vape shops.

Buyers attempted to purchase cigarettes, cigars or e-cigarettes during each visit. The study participants only attempted a single product purchase each time and went to each business up to 15 times.

New Jersey raised its minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 on Nov. 1, 2017. The federal age made the same jump on Dec. 20, 2019. Since 2010, federal law has required cigarette and tobacco retailers to check the photo ID of any customer who appears younger than 27.

“A better understanding of how the problem varies from place to place will increase our chances of solving it or, at the very least, minimizing it,” Hrywna said. “Efforts to delay tobacco usage are important, because the younger people are when they begin experimenting with tobacco products, the greater their chance of becoming addicted and suffering serious health problems down the road.”

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