Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Scottish display ban consultation report, and proof of age war

The Scottish Government yesterday published responses to the consultation on tobacco display ban regulations, which closed in the summer. However, consideration is not complete, because of legal action:
In light of the ongoing legal challenge relating to the display ban provisions of the 2010 Act, the Scottish Government is putting on hold meantime finalising the Display of Tobacco and Prices Regulations. This analysis is, therefore, confined to the other 4 sets of regulations.
The Press and Journal has reported that failure to register as a tobacco retailer can invoke fines up to £20,000 or imprisonment. Selling to under-age persons can bring fines of £200, increasing with each offence, and courts can ban repeated offenders.

On proof of age the Press and Journal report also states: 'Proof of age will be a driving licence, passport, or a national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (Pass) card, such as a Young Scot Pass card.' This includes Citizencard.

Citizencard provides proof of age backed by the Home Office PASS (Proof of Age Standards Scheme). It is hologram protected and uses laser-etched photography, to reduce the risk of forgery. Its principal stakeholder is the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association (along with No ID, No Sale). This card is mentioned in the consultation report:
While the majority of those who expressed a view backed the use of Young Scot as a PASS accredited card as an alternative for those who do not have a driving licence or passport, the use of another PASS accredited card, CitizenCard, was specifically endorsed by tobacco manufacturers. Health interests suggested, however, that nothing should be done to lend credence to the tobacco industry-supported CitizenCard. 
This is the Young Scot card, another useful age verification device. It is available to anyone over the age of 16, and proves that someone is either young enough to apply for concession fares, or old enough to smoke and drink, whichever applies. (Its health message for smokers is very unflattering, with its page on smoking including a young person with a mouthful of dogends.)

Note the pressure that is brought to bear on the government by health experts, who don't want tobacco interests to get any credence for their contribution to age verification campaigns age-restricted goods. No Sale, No ID is another campaign sponsored by the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, and is the only one that I can think of that is featured in shops and newspaper kiosks everywhere. The health gurus don't like it because it puts tobacco manufacturers in a good light.  The Scottish Government's conclusion on age verification?
The Scottish Government notes that the majority of respondents who expressed a view are content with the draft regulations. In terms of the issues raised at paragraph 4.3, we would emphasise that this is not really a matter for the draft regulations. It should be noted, however, that the Scottish Government will continue to put its weight behind the Young Scot PASS card and that it also has the full backing of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS), Scottish local authorities and leading retailer representative bodies.
Bit of a cop-out really. Citizencard is a PASS card, and has not been ruled out, but rather than make this clear, the Government mumbles about this 'not being a matter for the draft regulations'. Pure poppycock. Where do you specify what is valid ID if not in the regulations? Public Health Minister Shona Robison says herself: 'For the first time, this legislation will put a duty on retailers to verify that a potential purchaser is not underage - and it also specifies what methods of ID are acceptable.' As for Young Scot having the full backing of ACPOS and so on, all well and good: No ID, No Sale also has a wide range of sponsors.

People are still getting used to the PASS, and Citizencard has had problems because employees at some outlets have failed to recognise it. Getting age verification wrong is such a threat that many employees reject it simply through lack of training, and because of the heavy sanctions applied to people who make mistakes, but also some companies have policies in favour of passports or driving licences only. Efforts to iron out these problems are under way, but it appears that not all companies do accept PASS cards yet.

The main issue here is what is legally recognised as proof of age. That is, people selling age-restricted items can avoid making mistakes by refusing forms of identification that are not an acceptable proof of age. This appears to show that Citizencard is legally acceptable in Scotland. Even if the health nuts don't  like it, there is no reason that the Citizencard should not be used.


Anonymous said...

It must be that the shopkeeper has the say on ID, after all it is the shopkeeper who will face the fine if not done correctly.


Eddie Douthwaite said...

Is it a coincidence that the Scottish Government is backing the "Young Scot" card or does the phrase "vested interests" come to mind.

One of the Directors of Young Scot is no other than Mary Cuthbert OBE
Head of Tobacco, Sexual Health & HIV Policy Branch - Scottish Government Health Department.

I wonder what the Civil Service Code of Practice says about serving Civil Servants holding such a post.