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August 13, 2003

ExxonMobil Taking Strong Action to Block Tobacco Sales to Children

Miller: "This company is committed to avoiding tobacco sales to kids."

DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller announced Tuesday that ExxonMobil Corp., the nation's largest oil company, has committed to what Miller called "a powerful set of actions to prevent the sale of tobacco products to children" at thousands of gas stations across the nation.

"This is a big step," Miller said. "In our culture, most people get hooked on tobacco as kids, and kids very often get tobacco from gas stations and convenience stores. ExxonMobil is helping break that deadly cycle. I think this company is committed to avoiding tobacco sales to kids."

Iowa was one of four states [IA, CA, TX, MI] that led discussions that resulted in today's agreement between ExxonMobil and 43 states, the District of Columbia and two territories. "We are encouraging giant retail chains with thousands of outlets nationwide to adopt strong measures like this to prevent sales to minors," Miller said. "It's one more way to change the culture."

Under the agreement, ExxonMobil will take many actions to avoid tobacco sales to minors at 1000 company-owned stores, including:

  • Adopting standards for hiring and training employees regarding sale of tobacco products.
  • Instructing clerks to check i.d. for all tobacco customers who appear to be under age 27, and using security video-tape systems to monitor compliance.
  • Programming cash registers to aid clerks, when possible (for example, by locking when a tobacco product is scanned and prompting the clerk to ask for i.d.)
  • Prohibiting self-service displays of cigarettes and other tobacco products, and distribution of free tobacco products at its stores.
  • Using both internal and independent outside monitoring and performance checks to be sure clerks are not selling tobacco to minors.
  • Designating a senior-level compliance designee responsible for compliance with the agreement and with youth-access tobacco laws generally.

ExxonMobil also pledged to make good-faith efforts to ensure that about 16,000 franchise stations displaying the Exxon or Mobil names also block sales to youth. Franchisees must commit in writing to prevent such sales, and must inform ExxonMobil if they receive any notices of violation for making underage sales. Franchise renewals could be affected by tobacco compliance.

"ExxonMobil is making it part of its company culture to avoid tobacco sales to kids," Miller said. "That's a very positive development, and we appreciate them taking the lead in this industry."

The 14-page "Assurance" or agreement noted that 47% of youth who report buying cigarettes identify gas stations as their primary point of purchase, and another 27% identify convenience stores.

The agreement cites national statistics that four out of five regular adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18, and that the younger a person begins smoking, the more likely it is that he or she will be unable to quit later in life. Recent studies also indicate that youth demonstrate signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes.

Miller said: "Perhaps a thousand youths take up tobacco each month in Iowa, and about one-third of them will suffer premature illness and death as a result of tobacco-related disease. We need to make every effort to stop this epidemic. ExxonMobil has moved us another step forward."

Miller said the first agreement between the states and a large national retailer was reached in February with Walgreens, one of the nation's largest drug store chains.

"I think we will only see more responsible companies stepping forward to work with us, including oil companies," he said.

Iowa's Consumer Protection Division represented Miller's Office in negotiations with ExxonMobil and is a leader of the multi-state team working with other national retail companies.

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Additional background information regarding ExxonMobil:

ExxonMobil Corp.'s principal place of business is Irving, Texas.

The company's public affairs representative in this matter is Ms. Prem Nair in Fairfax VA at 703-846-1021. E-mail is

The company's main presence in Iowa is under Mobil-brand distributorships in eastern and northeast Iowa. (Cities include Des Moines, Ames, Davenport, Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Bellevue, LeClaire, Maquoketa, Peosta, Luxemburg.)

The company provided the states with a statement of Mr. Jim Carter, Regional Director, ExxonMobil: "We are very serious about taking additional action to prevent minors from buying cigarettes and other tobacco products. We currently have stringent curbs in place, and we are committed to further enhancing those measures through the even better ideas proposed by the AGs. We applaud their efforts to end smoking by minors in America and we encourage other retailers to follow suit."

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