New Study Shows One in Five (21%) Ontario Convenience Stores Sell Cigarettes to Underage Patrons

Major Chains and Independents Are Equal Offenders. Toronto Stores (56%) Have Highest Offence Rate

Monday, February 10, 2014

Toronto, ON – According to a new mystery shop study of 190 Ontario convenience stores conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Canada’s National Brewers, one in five (21%) stores did not ask for valid identification of underage patrons. Major chains and independent stores were equally found to sell tobacco products to patrons under the provincially-defined legal age of 19 years old. Alarmingly, of the 44 stores visited in Toronto, 56% allowed underage patron purchases without asking for valid identification.

The mystery shop study sent 17 year olds, accompanied by an adult surveyor who waited outside during potential transactions, into both independent (152 stores in total) and convenience/gas chains (38 stores in total) in 12 markets across the province to find out how accessible tobacco products are to minority-aged patrons.

Nearly a quarter (22%) of independent retailers did not ask for identification and sold cigarette products to the under-age patrons that requested them, while three quarters (78%) asked for identification and denied access at the point of sale. Similarly, one in five (18%) convenience/gas chains did not request photo identification at the point of sale and allowed the underage mystery shoppers to purchase the cigarette product without question, while eight in ten (82%) asked for identification and denied the sale.

According to provincial legislation, retailers must post Government I.D. required signs at any location where tobacco is sold or supplied in a place where the sign is clearly visible to the person who sells or supplies the tobacco and to the person to whom the tobacco is sold or supplied.

Despite this requirement, the results of the mystery shop reveal that one in ten (11%) convenience stores in Ontario do not have the appropriate ‘Be 19’ signage visible to its patrons. Once again, independent retailers (12%) are less consistent with posting these age restriction signs visibly than convenience/gas chains (5%).

Regional Findings…

The mystery shop was conducted in the following Ontario markets: Toronto, Hamilton/Niagara Region, Ottawa, Kitchener/Guelph, London, Kingston, Peterborough, Barrie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Windsor, and North Bay.

The results reveal that Toronto retailers top the list of being least likely to ask for identification and most likely to sell cigarettes to minority-aged patrons, followed by retailers in smaller markets like Barrie, Windsor, and North Bay. The full results of the mystery shop, by region, are as follows:

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These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid study conducted between January 24th and February 6th 2014, on behalf of Canada’s National Brewers. For this study, a sample of 152 independent and 38 chain convenience stores were visited to assess the extent to which these establishments ask minors for identification when selling cigarettes. The surveyors were 17 year olds, accompanied by an adult surveyor, who remained outside of the store at all times. The study included a total of 190 stores from a cross section of Ontario cities including 45 in Toronto, 20 each in London, Ottawa, and Hamilton/Niagara, 15 in Kitchener and 10 each in Peterborough, Barrie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Kingston and North Bay.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

John Wright
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Reid
Public Affairs

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada's market intelligence leader, the country's leading provider of public opinion research, and research partner for loyalty and forecasting and modelling insights. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 600 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in the country, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and online panels. Ipsos Reid's marketing research and public affairs practices offer the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada, all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, Ipsos Reid offers syndicated information or custom solutions across key sectors of the Canadian economy, including consumer packaged goods, financial services, automotive, retail, and technology & telecommunications. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group.

To learn more, please visit

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world’s third largest market research company.

With offices in 85 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,789 billion (2.300 billion USD) in 2012.

New Study Shows One in Five (21%) Ontario Convenience Stores Sell Cigarettes to Underage Patrons

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Elen Alexov
Director, Marketing Services,
North America