Last week, it was announced that Circle K Stores, Inc. and Mac’s Convenience Stores LLC have reached an agreement with attorneys general for 39 states and the District of Columbia to cut-down on the sales of tobacco products to minors. (See copy of the 22-page agreement here). The agreement, which does not include South Carolina, encompasses approximately 4,000 convenience stores. The agreement goes into effect on June 1, 2011. Previous multi-state agreements have similarly been reached between states and convenience stores selling fuel under Conoco, BP, Exxon, Mobil, and Shell, among others, and with retail and pharmacy chains Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, WalMart, Kroger, and 7-Eleven.
The agreement, called the “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” (AVC), provides that Circle K will adopt procedures intended to reduce the amount of marketing and sales of cigarettes to minors, and additional procedures designed to curb underage tobacco sales. Terms of the agreement include:
1. Clerks must check the IDs of all persons who appear to be under the age of 30 to avoid illegal sales based on appearance;
2. In-store advertising of tobacco must be limited in ways intended to reduce the effect on young people, and outdoor advertising of tobacco must eliminated at stores within 500 feet of playgrounds or schools;
3. Employee training will focus on the mechanics of eliminating underage tobacco sales and on emphasizing the serious health issues that give rise to the legal efforts to restrict underage access to tobacco products;
4. Circle K will test itself on these safeguards by conducting “mystery shopper” compliance checks at 500 of its stores every 6 months;
5. Circle K will pay the attorneys general a total of $225,000 to be used for consumer education, public protection, or the implementation of programs to protect against tobacco abuse by minors.
Both the AVC agreement and the individual statements of the attorneys general (see here, for example) note that more than 2,000 children per day begin smoking cigarettes and that 1/3 of those will one day die from a tobacco-related disease. It is estimated that 690 million packs of cigarettes are sold illegally to children in the United States per year.