Vape store owner pushes technology to eliminate minors

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Technology to keep minors out of vaping stores is expected to be widely adopted by retailers, said a store owner who operates the devices.

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With pressure from governments to reduce underage vaping, more of the industry is expected to be using a scanner that Alt Vape is testing at its store on 17 Avenue SW and one in Edmonton, owner Danielle Chesney said.

The device detects fake ID cards, warning staff to refuse entry, with the lobby scanner preventing minors from being exposed to prohibited products.

“I don’t know why the reluctance (for wider adoption),” Chesney said.

“It comes at a monetary cost, but don’t we want to spend some money to protect our communities and our youth? “

She said there was no doubt that part of her motivation to prevent under-18s from accessing her stores was related to potential liability as well.

Its nine Alberta stores already use similar scanners at their checkouts. Potential customers are also screened based on their age on its website and at the physical delivery point.

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Similar technology is used in bars, liquor and cannabis stores, she notes.

Staff members, Chesney said, are alerted to fabricated ID cards “but fake IDs are pretty good now.”

“And the government has been very slow to regulate,” she said, adding that technology had detected fake ID cards at the chain’s outlets.

Danielle Chesney, President and CEO of Alt Vape, is seen using the Patreon Scan system at their location on SW 17th Avenue.  The system can be used to scan IDs ensuring that they are genuine and that the person holding the ID is over 18 years of age.
Danielle Chesney, President and CEO of Alt Vape, is seen using the Patreon Scan system at their location on SW 17th Avenue. The system can be used to scan IDs ensuring that they are genuine and that the person holding the ID is over 18 years of age. Photo by Brendan Miller /Postmedia

An anti-smoking watchdog said Alt Vape and others’ decision to increase screening layers is a good thing, but there is still a long way to go.

“Is it a responsible thing to do? Sure, but there is no substitute for proper and rigorous training of your staff, ”said Les Hagen, of Action on Smoking and Health.

Stores should also use underage shoppers with fake ID to test their vigilance and even self-penalize when they know they’ve failed, he said.

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“We have a huge compliance issue with the vape shops,” he said.

In 2018-19, there were approximately 50,000 underage vapers in Alberta – youth who were three times more likely to smoke tobacco.

Hagen noted that Alt Vape had products seized at three of its Calgary stores in late 2019 for using inappropriate testimonials and endorsement, and in two locations for offering banned flavors.

Chesney said those inspectors pulled out a handful of juice bottles as several thousand were seized across the country at a time of confusion within the industry.

“This was one of 80,000 SKUs that have been pulled from retailers across the country,” she said.

“At the time, the rules were vague and we did our best to remove all infringing products. However, we missed a few bottles.

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Health Canada said that at the time of these 2019 inspections, 84% of specialty stores and 12% of convenience stores were in non-compliance.

Hagen said he hoped Ottawa would follow through on a proposal to further limit legal flavors of vape to reduce their attraction to teens.

Under a revised federal law on tobacco and vaping products, the maximum nicotine content of product bottles was reduced last month to 20 mg per ml from 66 mg, a move hailed by Chesney and Hagen as a way to limit the consumption of young people.

Hagen also said he expects Ottawa and the Government of Alberta to enact a tax on vaping products soon, which provinces like British Columbia and Saskatchewan have already done.

“This is part of the solution because the higher prices discourage consumption, especially among young people who have less disposable income,” he said.

It’s impossible to keep vaping products out of the reach of underage consumers, Hagen said, “but the more restrictions we put the better – we know that.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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