Two things Ontario convenience stores are doing to keep tobacco from kids – and two things the Government can do to help.

Convenience stores are on the front lines keeping cigarettes from youth. With the spotlight on smoking prevention during National Non-Smoking Week, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) is highlighting the ways in which its members are continuously working to prevent underage people from accessing tobacco.

“Because there are no laws that prevent young people from purchasing, possessing or using tobacco products, our members are duty-bound to make sure kids don’t get the chance to start smoking by accessing these age-restricted products,” said Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA). “We take this responsibility very seriously and are committed to being responsible community retailers. The fact our industry diligently does over 50,000 age checks every day demonstrates our commitment to ensuring young people never have the chance to start smoking.”

Convenience stores know that the best way to stop youth from smoking is to prevent the sale of tobacco to anyone under 19. Here are two key ways in which they’re doing this:

New driver’s licence indicators – The Ontario Convenience Stores Association worked alongside various health groups to successfully persuade the government to update Ontario driver’s licences by adding an underage visual indicator. This indicator clearly shows when someone will turn 19, and it will allow for quick and easy age checks. Prior to this change, Ontario and Quebec were the only places in North America to not have some sort of underage visual indicator.

Continuous improvement – The OCSA continually tests and benchmarks convenience stores against other large sellers of age-restricted products, to help continually improve their age verification practices. Independent mystery shopping tests have shown that Ontario chain convenience stores are best at checking for age – better than both The Beer Store and LCBO.

But the government has a big role to play too. Here are 2 things the government can do to help:

Don’t allow kids to possess cigarettes – It’s not illegal for kids to have cigarettes – but it is for them to possess alcohol. Let’s make our laws consistent. The Ontario government could become true leaders in protecting young people from the dangers of cigarettes by introducing an outright ban on youth purchase, possession and use of tobacco. More and more jurisdictions are turning to these laws, including Alberta and Nova Scotia, as well as many U.S. states including Ohio, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Colorado.

Take action against contraband tobacco – Illegal cigarettes – often sold by individuals from cars and on street corners – are significantly contributing to the problem of youth smoking. There are no age checks for illegal cigarette sales and the cigarettes cost just a few cents each. Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health have called use of contraband cigarettes among teens “striking” ( Taking swift action against contraband tobacco could perhaps make the biggest impact on stopping youth smokers before they even begin.