Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on Wednesday announced a multi-state agreement with two major convenience store chains that should step up efforts to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors.
The agreement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, was reached among the Attorneys General of 39 states and the District of Columbia, and Circle K Stores Inc. and Mac's Convenience Stores LLC.
The agreement covers about 4,000 convenience store operations in 32 states.
In Alabama, there are about 57 Circle K stores but no Mac's stores.
Strange's office said that under the agreement Circle K will adopt specific procedures designed to reduce sales and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors at its 3,000 corporate-owned stores and will adopt various methods designed to curb underage tobacco sales at another 1,000 franchise locations.
"We are working toward achieving a better Alabama by limiting tobacco use by minors. Tobacco sellers are enforcing stricter policies on age limits to ensure a decrease in the number of tobacco users starting at a young age," Attorney General Strange said. "This policy will help protect Alabama's children and improve our public health."
The agreement notes that the great majority of adult smokers started before they reached eighteen; that young people show signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes; and that the younger a person begins to smoke the more likely he or she will be unable to quit and will suffer from a tobacco-related disease.
The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance includes the following terms (among others):
- ID must be checked on all people who appear to be under 30, to protect against mistakes by clerks in evaluating a person's age by their appearance alone.
- In store advertising of tobacco must be limited in ways intended to reduce the effect on young people, and outdoor advertising is to be eliminated at stores within 500 feet of playgrounds or schools.
- Employee training will focus on the mechanics of eliminating underage tobacco sales, and also will emphasize the serious health issues that give rise to the legal efforts to restrict youth access to tobacco.
- Circle K will test itself on the effectiveness of its own safeguards against underage sales by conducting "mystery shopper" compliance checks at 500 of its stores every six months.
"We commend Circle K for joining us in this ongoing effort to keep tobacco out of the hands of young people," said Attorney General Strange.
Previous multistate agreements have covered gas station convenience stores selling fuel under the Conoco, Phillips 66, 76, Exxon, Mobil, BP Amoco, Shell, Valero, ARCO and Chevron brand names, and retail and pharmacy chains Kroger, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walmart.