Operation I.D. School Zone deters teens from smoking, program officials report
Local News - Canadian tobacco companies and retailers are unfazed by the controversy surrounding their campaign to keep cigarettes away from minors.
In fact, theyâ€™re congratulating themselves on raising awareness and compliance with the law.
Operation I.D. School Zone was launched in Kingston in November 2000, and provides retailers within a one kilometre of a school with tools to curb the sale of tobacco to minors.
Eighty per cent of the 111 Kingston school zone businesses complied with the Tobacco Act, up from 71 per cent when the program was launched.
The statistics were released at a press conference held in front of a Bath Road convenience store yesterday.
Peter Flack, executive director of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association and President of the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Tobacco Retailing, said increases in compliance rates in communities across the country prove the program is working.
Itâ€™s the only national campaign of its kind.
â€œ[Operation I.D. School Zone] is something we can take and provide access to across Canada. It has had a substantial impact on retailers in the Kingston area,â€ Flack said.
â€œIt is not, as some people like to claim, tobacco company propaganda.â€
An independent firm, SES Canada Research Inc., sends mystery shoppers to the 111 school zone stores in Kingston. The mystery shopping is uniform across the country: a female student who is one year under the legal age to purchase tobacco walks in and tries to buy a tobacco product while an adult observer browses in the store.
A letter is then sent out to the store, either congratulating the retailer on complying with the law, or warning about possible fines if the mystery shopper had been from the police department.
SES Canada doesnâ€™t advise police of stores that break the law, said Nik Nanos, managing director of the research firm, because the firm is hired to â€œdo research that will help correct poor behaviours,â€ not to enforce the law.
Operation I.D. is a nationwide program paid for by Canadaâ€™s tobacco companies and co-ordinated by Canadian Coalition for Responsible Tobacco Retailing.
The operation provides store owners with educational kits that include posters and training CDs for store clerks under the age of 25. Co-ordinators visit the stores.
The program has been attacked by local health units across the country because itâ€™s funded by Canadaâ€™s three leading tobacco companies.
The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Health Unit assailed the program for not mentioning in promotional literature the harmful effects of tobacco.
â€œInterestingly, the kit never mentions the aggressive and deceptive marketing and promotional techniques the tobacco industry uses to make tobacco products attractive to young people in the first place,â€ Dr. Ian Gemmill, medical officer of health, in a letter to The Whig-Standard published early last year.