Vape store owner pushes technology to weed out minors

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Technology meant to bar minors from entering vape stores should be widely adopted by retailers, said a store owner piloting the devices.


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With a push on by governments to reduce underage vaping, more of the industry should employ a scanner Alt Vape is testing at its 17 Avenue S.W. store and another in Edmonton, said owner Danielle Chesney.

The device detects false ID cards, alerting staff to refuse entry, with the vestibule scanner preventing minors from being exposed to prohibited products.

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

“There is a monetary cost to this but don’t we want to spend a little money to protect our communities and youth?”

She said there’s no doubt some of her motivation in preventing those under age 18 from accessing her stores is also connected to potential liability.

All nine of her Alberta stores already use similar Patronscan devices at their checkouts. Prospective customers are also screened for age on its website and at the point of physical delivery.


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Similar technology to the devices that each cost between $1,400 and $1,800 each is used at bars, liquor and cannabis stores, she notes.

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

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

Danielle Chesney, president and CEO of Alt Vape, is seen using the Patronscan system at their 17th Ave. SW location. The system can be used to scan ID’s making sure they are authentic and the person holding the ID is over the age of 18.
Danielle Chesney, president and CEO of Alt Vape, is seen using the Patronscan system at their 17th Ave. SW location. The system can be used to scan ID’s making sure they are authentic and the person holding the ID is over the age of 18. Photo by Brendan Miller /Postmedia

An anti-smoking watchdog said the move by Alt Vape and others to increase layers of screening is a good one but more needs to be done.

“Is it a responsible thing to do? Sure it is, but there’s no substitute for having your staff properly, rigorously trained,” said Les Hagen, with Action on Smoking and Health.

Stores should also be using underage buyers with phoney 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 problem with vape stores,” he said.

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

Hagen noted Alt Vape had product seized from three of its Calgary stores in late 2019 for using improper testimonials and endorsement, and at two locations for offering prohibited flavours.

Chesney said those inspectors removed a handful of juice bottles at a time when many thousands of them were being seized throughout the country at a time of confusion within the industry.

“This was part of the 80,000 SKUs that were removed from retailers across the nation,” she said.

“At the time the rules were vague and we did our best to remove all products in violation. However, we did miss a few bottles.”


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Health Canada said at the time of those 2019 inspections, 84 per cent of specialty stores and 12 per cent of convenience outlets were found to be in non-compliance.

Hagen said he hopes Ottawa follows through on a proposal to further limit legal vape flavours to reduce their attraction to teens.

Under a revamped federal Tobacco and Vaping Products Act, the maximum nicotine content for bottles of product was reduced last month to 20 mg per ml from 66 mg, a move welcomed by both Chesney and Hagen as a way to limit youth consumption.

Hagen also said he expects Ottawa and the Alberta government to soon enact a tax on vaping products, something provinces like B.C. and Saskatchewan have already done.

“It’s part of the solution because higher prices discourage consumption, particularly among youth who have less disposable income,” he said.

It’s impossible to keep vaping products completely out of the hands of underage consumers, said Hagen, “but the more restrictions we put in place, the better — we know this.”

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Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn



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