Calif. Lawmakers Want to Ban Self-Service Alcohol Checkout

Supermarkets would be barred from allowing customers to use self-service checkout lanes to purchase alcohol under a proposal now being debated in the California legislature, the Los Angeles Times reported July 8.

Advocates like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Marin Institute contend that the self-service lanes make it easy for underage youth and intoxicated individuals to purchase alcohol. California already limits stores to selling cigarettes, spray paint, and some over-the-counter medication via a live cashier, and a measure from Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, AB-1060, would add beer, wine and liquor to the list.

Self-service checkout registers are supposed to halt transactions involving alcohol so that employees can check IDs, but a study found that this safeguard failed about 20 percent of the time — sometimes because employees failed to check IDs when they were busy helping multiple customers. There are even websites and blogs showing teens how to game the system, including scanning a six-pack of soda rather than beer.

However, some California stores only have self-service checkout, and industry groups say self-checkout technology has improved and that underage buyers are no more likely to get alcohol at self-serve lanes than when interacting with a live cashier.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is not supporting the legislation, saying that adequate safeguards are already in place.

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