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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced an agreement with Wal-Mart under which the nation's largest retailer will implement new procedures to reduce tobacco sales to minors in its stores throughout the nation, including all 170 Wal-Mart and SAM'S CLUB stores in California.
"This agreement reflects a commitment made by Wal-Mart to better protect the health of its young customers,' said Lockyer. 'When fully implemented, this agreement and similar ones reached with other major companies will stand as significant landmarks in the effort to keep our children safe from an addictive and lethal product.'
The Wal-Mart 'Assurance of Voluntary Compliance,' reached with Lockyer and the Attorneys General of 42 other states, is the most recent agreement produced by an ongoing, multi-state enforcement effort which Lockyer has helped lead. Previous agreements cover all Walgreens stores, and all gas stations and convenience stores operating under the Exxon, Mobil, BP, ARCO and Amoco brand names in the signing states.
Combined, the agreements cover more than 37,000 retail outlets. They provide measures to reduce sales of tobacco products to minors by the nation's top retail chain (Wal-Mart), number one drug store chain (Walgreens) and largest oil company (ExxonMobil).
Launched in 2000, the multi-state enforcement effort by a group of 30 Attorneys General focuses on retailers that have high rates of tobacco-product sales to minors. Inspections at Wal-Mart stores in California consistently have found a high rate of non-compliance with laws that prohibit such sales. The enforcement program's goal is to secure the companies' agreement to take specific corrective actions. The agreements incorporate 'best practices' to reduce sales to minors, developed by the Attorneys General in consultation with researchers, state tobacco control officials and the Centers for Disease Control.
The agreement announced today requires Wal-Mart to:
Check the ID of any person purchasing tobacco products when the person appears to be under the age of 27, and accept only valid government-issued photo ID as proof of age.
Use cash registers programmed to prompt ID checks on all tobacco sales.
Prohibit self-service displays of tobacco products, the use of vending machines to sell tobacco products and distribution of free samples.
Prohibit the sale of smoking paraphernalia to minors.
Hire an independent entity to conduct random compliance checks of approximately 10% of all Wal-Mart stores every six months.
Train employees on state and local laws and company policies regarding tobacco sales to minors, including explaining the health-related reasons for laws that restrict youth access to tobacco.
Lockyer and the other Attorneys General will monitor Wal-Mart's compliance with the agreement, and reserve the right to bring enforcement actions to remedy violations.
Lockyer and Attorneys General from the following states signed the Wal-Mart agreement: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The Attorneys General have long recognized that youth access to tobacco products ranks among the most serious public health problems. Studies show that more than 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18. Research indicates that every day in the United States, more than 2,000 people under the age of 18 begin smoking and that one-third of those persons ultimately will die from a tobacco-related disease. Young people are particularly susceptible to the hazards of tobacco, often showing signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes.
In 1999, Lockyer established a full-time Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section to enforce California laws regarding the sale and marketing of tobacco products. The section also enforces the national Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), reached with tobacco companies in November 1998.
Californians who suspect violations of state tobacco laws or the MSA can file complaints by calling 916-565-6486 at any time, or by writing to the Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Additional information is available on the Attorney General's web site at http://www.ag.ca.gov/tobacco/.