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October 24, 2007

Kroger Co. Agrees to Steps to Block Tobacco Sales to Minors

Kroger operates 19 Kwik Shops in Iowa, most in the Davenport and Cedar Rapids areas.

The Kroger Co. has agreed to a battery of policies and procedures designed to prevent the sale of tobacco products to children at its stores in Iowa and across the nation, Attorney General Tom Miller said Wednesday.

Kroger is the nation’s largest grocery chain with 2,468 supermarkets in 31 states. Kroger also has 779 convenience stores, including 19 Kwik Shops in Iowa. Kroger entered the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, or AVC, with Iowa and a total of 42 states and territories.

Kroger agreed to rigorous measures to avoid tobacco sales to minors at its stores, including strengthening employee training on store policies for avoiding sales to youths; conducting unannounced internal compliance checks; providing anonymous external performance checks by an independent entity to verify compliance; using cash registers that require clerks to enter information from a customer’s photo identification for the sale of tobacco products to persons who appear to be under age 27; and many other measures. Kroger also will take action to ensure compliance at its franchise outlets. [Go to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance for full list of measures Kroger will undertake to thwart tobacco sales to minors.]

“Kroger was extremely cooperative in coming to this agreement,” Miller said. “We commend the company. This is a good agreement, and it’s an important agreement,” he said.

“Eight out of ten smokers started as kids,” Miller said. “Young people are particularly susceptible to the hazards of tobacco, and often show signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes. We need to take every step possible to prevent youth smoking, addiction, and premature death from tobacco-related diseases.”

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More background:

The Kroger agreement is the eleventh reached between major tobacco retailers and most of the states. Iowa Asst. Attorney General Steve St. Clair is helping lead the states in reaching agreements with giant retail chains to adopt strong measures to prevent sales to minors.

Previous agreements cover all 7-Eleven, CVS, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Rite Aid stores, and all gas stations and convenience stores operating under the Conoco, Phillips 66, Exxon, 76, Mobil, BP, Amoco, ARCO and Chevron brand names, in the signing states. Combined, the agreements cover over 80,000 retail outlets across the nation.

In Iowa, Kroger operates 19 Kwik Shops: nine in Davenport, one in Eldridge, four in Cedar Rapids, one in Hiawatha, one in Council Bluffs, one in Carter Lake, one in Ames, and one in Glenwood. The 19 Iowa Kwik Shops are Kroger company-owned stores.

The multi-state enforcement effort by the Attorneys General was launched in 2000. The states seek agreement from national retailers to take specific corrective actions to prevent sales of tobacco products to minors. State laws prohibit such sales. The agreements incorporate “best practices” to reduce sales to minors that were developed by the Attorneys General in consultation with researchers and state and federal tobacco control officials.

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 begin 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 start smoking -- and that one-third of those persons ultimately will die from a tobacco-related disease.

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