|Tobacco Seller Training Program
The Vermont Department of Liquor Control (DLC) is the only agency exclusively dedicated to the enforcement of liquor and tobacco laws and regulations in our state. The Liquor Control Board consists of three persons, not more than two of whom belong to the same political party. Members serve six years, and the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints them.
The Liquor Control Board is responsible for adopting rules for the administration and enforcement of the laws relating to tobacco products. The Board is also responsible for the supervision and management of the sale of tobacco products within the State of Vermont and for the enforcement of laws and regulations relating to the distribution and use of tobacco products.
One of the branches of the Vermont Department of Liquor Control is the Enforcement Division, which consists of the Director, 13 field investigators, 3 education investigators, one chief investigator, and an office support staff. The duties and responsibilities of this division are to enforce the laws and regulations pertaining to the sale, furnishing, usage and distribution of tobacco products in the State of Vermont. These duties include investigation of complaints, on-site inspections, compliance checks of tobacco retailers, and education programs for schools, licensees, civic groups, and law enforcement agencies.
All rules and regulations of the Liquor Control Board have the force of law by virtue of Vermont Statutes Annotated, Title 7, as amended.
It is the duty of all licensees to familiarize themselves with the laws of the State of Vermont relative to the sale of tobacco products as well as the rules and regulations of the Board applying to their particular license. Whenever it determines that the licensee or the permitee has violated the laws of the State of Vermont, any rule or regulation of the Board, or any condition of the license or permit, the Board may in its discretion and after giving the licensee or permittee an opportunity to be heard, revoke or suspend any license or permit granted by it or any license granted by the commissioners of any town or city.
The purpose of these programs is to provide training to the tobacco seller about Vermont's tobacco laws and regulations. People who understand these laws will do better and have fewer problems. We feel that it is so important that the legislature passed a law requiring training. The law is Title 7 VSA § 1002(a) and it says:
- Someone who applies for a tobacco license will not be able to get one until a Liquor Control Investigator trains him or her.
- Every employee who sells tobacco products has to be trained every two years.
If you do not do that you will lose your tobacco license for one day.
The Liquor Control Board and the Vermont Department of Liquor Control believe that education is important, especially for selleThe purpose of the programs is to provide training to the tobacco seller concerning Vermont's tobacco laws and regulations. A better understanding of these laws and regulations will increase compliance and thereby reduce tobacco related problems. To that end, the Legislature has passed laws mandating training for the licensee and staff. Title 7 VSA 1002 (a) to read:
(a) An applicant for a tobacco license that does not hold a liquor license issued under this title shall be granted a tobacco license pursuant to section 1002 of this title only after the applicant has met with a liquor control investigator for the purpose of being informed about the Vermont tobacco laws pertaining to the purchase, storage and sale of tobacco products. A corporation, partnership or association shall designate a director, partner or manager to comply with the requirements of this subsection.
(b) The holder of a tobacco license that does not also hold a liquor license issued pursuant to this title for the same premises shall:
(1) Complete the department's enforcement seminar at least once every three years. A corporation, partnership or association shall designate a director, partner or manager to comply with this subdivision.
(2) Ensure that every employee involved in the sale of tobacco products completes a training program approved by the department of liquor control before the employee begins selling or providing tobacco products, and at least once every 24 months thereafter. A licensee may comply with this subdivision by conducting its own training program on its premises using information and materials furnished by the department of liquor control. A licensee who fails to comply with the requirements of this subsection shall be subject to suspension of the tobacco license for no less than one day.
The primary function of the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Liquor Control is to strictly and responsibly enforce Vermont's liquor control laws and regulations and Vermont's tobacco laws. In order to assure maximum effectiveness in tobacco enforcement, the Department provides the Tobacco Servers Awareness Program to ensure that licensees properly train their employees in responsible sales of tobacco products.
The Board and the Department firmly believe in education and it is their intent to strengthen enforcement responsibilities through improved education, emphasizing the retail segment of the tobacco industry. All licensees are required by law to participate.
In order for retailers and their employees to fulfill their prescribed responsibilities it is important that immediate corrective action be taken whenever there are indications that violations of the laws and regulations may occur. The responsible licensee will act promptly to prevent violations from occurring on the premises and avoid placing the license in jeopardy of suspension or revocation.
Licensees have a unique preventive function, the significance of which is well illustrated by the maxim that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". The Board and the Department believe that education is synonymous with prevention.
The legal age to purchase or use tobacco in the State of Vermont is 18 years old. The age of the person who may sell tobacco products is 16 years old (Effective Sept. 1, 2005).
V.S.A. § 1005. Persons under the age of eighteen; possession of tobacco products; misrepresenting age or purchasing tobacco products; penalty
§ 1005. Persons under the age of eighteen; possession of tobacco products; misrepresenting age or purchasing tobacco products; penalty
(a) A person less than 18 years of age shall not possess or purchase tobacco products unless the person is an employee of a holder of a tobacco license and is in possession of tobacco products to effect a sale in the course of employment. A person less than 18 years of age shall not misrepresent his or her age to purchase tobacco products. A person who possesses tobacco products in violation of this subsection shall be subject to having the tobacco products immediately confiscated and shall be further subject to a civil penalty of $25.00. In the case of failure to pay a penalty, the judicial bureau shall mail a notice to the person at the address in the complaint notifying the person that failure to pay the penalty within 60 days of the notice will result in either the suspension of the person's operator's license for a period of not more than 90 days or delay the initial licensing of the person for a period of not more than one year. A copy of the notice shall be sent to the commissioner of motor vehicles, who after expiration of 60 days from the date of notice and unless notified by the judicial bureau that the penalty has been paid, shall either suspend the person's operator's license or cause initial licensing of the person to be delayed for the periods set forth in this subsection and the rules. An action under this subsection shall be brought in the same manner as a traffic violation pursuant to chapter 24 of Title 23. The commissioner of motor vehicles shall adopt rules in accordance with the provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3 to implement the provisions of this subsection, which may provide for incremental suspension or delays not exceeding cumulatively the maximum periods established by this subsection.
(b) A person less than 18 years of age who misrepresents his or her age by presenting false identification to purchase tobacco products shall be fined not more than $50.00 or provide up to 10 hours of community service, or both. (Added 1991, No. 70, § 2, eff. May 1, 1992; amended 1997, No. 58, § 5; 1997, No. 121 (Adj. Sess.), § 26.)
7 V.S.A. § 1007. Furnishing tobacco to persons under eighteen
§ 1007. Furnishing tobacco to persons under eighteen
An individual who sells or furnishes tobacco products to a person under 18 years of age shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $100.00 for the first offense and not more than $500.00 for any subsequent offense. An action under this section shall be brought in the same manner as for a traffic violation pursuant to chapter 24 of Title 23 and shall be brought within 24 hours of the occurrence of the alleged violation. (Added 1991, No. 70, § 2; amended 1997, No. 58, § 6.)
As you can see by the law, there is a penalty for the minor who purchases, possesses, or uses tobacco products, but the penalty for the person who furnishes the tobacco products to the minor is even more costly. Further, selling tobacco products to a minor may cause the tobacco license to be suspended or revoked by the Liquor Control Board.
The seller must be absolutely certain that the person is at least 18 years old before selling them any tobacco products since the consequences are quite plain.
How to Identify a Minor -- What Makes a Minor
As previously discussed, it is very important that a seller make certain to sell only to those customers who are of legal smoking age. To do this the seller must be observant and evaluate whether the customer is of questionable age. The rule of thumb is -- when in doubt -- ask for I.D.
You, the seller, must remember that people who are less than 18 will often try to make themselves appear older than they really are. This may be done, in the case of women, by applying makeup in such a way as to make them appear much older than they really are. The minor will also try to appear older through his or her actions. Sometimes the person will be cocky or overly self-assured. The person may, on the other hand, appear nervous or try to act "invisible", so as to melt into the crowd. The key is to watch for any action or lack of action on the part of the person that seems out of the ordinary. Remember, when a person is under 18, getting tobacco products is a big deal, but usually once the person turns 18 it loses its appeal somewhat.
Most experienced sellers will say that they know the person is a minor even before he or she asks for the tobacco products. This is due to appearance, actions, and facial features. Always keep the frame of mind that the customer has to prove to you that they are of legal age. If you're not sure, don't sell to them.
Considering the penalties, it is better to be safe than sorry. Minors do act differently than adults. As stated above, many times you will detect a minor even before he or she asks for the pack of cigarettes. They will park their car at the far end of the parking lot, when all the rest of your customers park as close to the front entrance as possible. They will wander all over the store trying to build up enough courage to attempt to purchase. They will ask for the price list to find out what's the best buy. Some will be wearing their high school letter jackets with their class year of graduation right on the jacket.
Identification Cards -- Proof of Age
It usually comes down to ID cards. The question usually is: what should I, as a seller, accept and what should I not accept? Your job, a criminal penalty, suspension or revocation of the establishment's tobacco license, all depend on the correct answer to this question.
The only acceptable identification for person of questionable age are: a photographic motor vehicle operator's license, a valid passport, a United States Military identification card or a photographic nondriver motor vehicle identification card obtained from the department of motor vehicles. Anything else that is offered or accepted as proof of age is unacceptable and could result in criminal and/or civil penalties.
Purchasing and/or using tobacco products is not a right; it is a privilege. You, the seller, decide whether a person will purchase or not. It is your choice to make. Again, if you have any doubts, don't sell to the person. If the identification card doesn't look right, don't accept it as proof of age.
Some steps that have proven helpful with regard to identification cards are as follows:
These are only a few examples of what can be done to detect minors or the improper use of an identification card. Remember; when in doubt don't accept the ID card.
- Have the person take the identification card out of the wallet or lamination container in the wallet so that you can handle the ID.
- Examine the card for signs of alteration, particularly around the area of the photograph, the date of birth, the date of expiration, and corners.
- Check the photograph. Does it look like the person? Some people do change hair color, but not facial features such as large/small nose, broad face, etc.
- Check the expiration date. Is it still valid? People have been known to give their expired license to a younger brother or sister.
- Check the date of birth. Does it make the person old enough? Do the math. Many sellers have improperly accepted identification that said the person was underage; they just didn't take the time to read it properly.
- Ask the person questions such as how old are you? You would be surprised how many minors using borrowed IDs have not figured out the date of birth to match the age they are giving you. Ask them what their zip code is, ask them to spell their last name, what does their middle initial stand for, what is their zodiac sign (if you know it).
- You may want them to sign their name in front of you so you may compare it with the signature on the ID card. Several cases have been reported of minors misspelling the last name on the ID card or asking the seller, "how's it spelled on the ID", meanwhile trying to sneak a look at the ID to get the spelling right.
- When carding the person, watch their facial expressions and eye movements. Quite often, if the person is underage they will frequently look towards the exit, planning their escape route.
Tobacco Hours of Sale:
Monday through Sunday: Whenever you are open
Vending machines selling tobacco products are prohibited.
Tobacco has to be inaccessible to a customer except cigarettes in unopened cartons and smokeless tobacco in unopened multipack containers of ten or more packages. These must be in plain view of the employee.
Cigars and pipe tobacco stored in a humidor on the sales counter in plain view and under the control of a responsible employee so that the removal of these products from the humidor can be readily observed by that employee.
The sale and purchase of bidis is prohibited.
No person holding a tobacco license shall sell cigarettes individually or in packs that contain fewer than 20 cigarettes.
The Department of Liquor Control conducts compliance checks of premises that are licensed to sell tobacco products. These compliance checks are completed with the cooperation of an individual under the age of 18. The cooperating minors in the compliance checks are not allowed to misrepresent themselves, however any other minor attempting to buy tobacco products may misrepresent their age and in fact in many cases do. Because of this you should be diligent about asking for ID and not asking age of customers.