DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller announced today that BP Amoco, one of the nation's largest oil companies, has agreed to what he called "a strong new set of policies and procedures to reduce the sale of tobacco products to kids" at thousands of gas stations across the country.
Miller's office is leading a multi-state effort by state attorney general offices to urge giant retail operations to make strong efforts to thwart youth access to cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snuff, and other tobacco products. He said 39 states have reached such an agreement with BP Products North America, Inc., a wholly-owned marketing subsidiary of BP America, Inc., which is commonly known as BP Amoco. Similar agreements were struck earlier with Walgreens and ExxonMobil.
BP Products will instruct clerks to check ID for tobacco customers who appear to be under 35, use video-tape systems to monitor compliance, program cash registers to aid clerks, emphasize tobacco compliance in hiring and training, and undertake numerous other measures. BP Amoco has about 900 company-owned stores, and more than 12,000 franchise stations nationwide including 275 in Iowa.
"This is another solid step forward," Miller said. "In America, smokers get hooked on tobacco as kids - and the tobacco very often is obtained at gas stations and convenience stores."
The settlement document notes that the great majority of smokers become addicted in their mid- or early teens, and that the earlier a person becomes hooked the harder it is to quit and more likely the person will suffer a tobacco-related disease. "We can help break these patterns of addiction and disease by blocking youth access to tobacco," Miller said. "I commend BP Products for recognizing the importance of this issue and acting accordingly."
Miller said the agreements reached this year with Walgreens, ExxonMobil and BP Amoco affect more than 33,000 retail outlets across the nation. He said Iowa Assistant Attorney General Steve St. Clair has led the national multi-state effort that produced these reforms.
"We are working to change the culture of tobacco retailing," Miller said. "This is a good way for companies to demonstrate good corporate citizenship and public spiritedness. We'll be encouraging more to follow suit. Discussions are under way with other major retail chains."
Under the agreement, BP Products will adopt a variety of practices and policies designed to reduce or eliminate underage tobacco sales at about 900 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 35, 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.).
- Eliminating self-service cigarette displays, and prohibiting distribution of free tobacco products at its stores.
- Arranging for an independent entity to perform random compliance checks involving youthful tobacco purchasers at about 450 company stores each year, to permit the company to gauge the success of its training and other efforts.
- Designating an employee within each business unit to oversee implementation of the agreement and monitor violations on the part of retail outlets within that unit.
BP Products also will strive to reduce tobacco sales to minors in thousands of franchise stations that display the BP or Amoco name. All future franchise agreements will require these stations to prevent underage tobacco sales, and failure to do so will be considered grounds for terminating the franchise.
To demonstrate its continuing commitment to reducing underage sales of tobacco, BP Products also notified the attorneys general of the company's intention to donate $300,000 to the American Lung Association to be used for preventing underage tobacco use. "We applaud this donation as a further demonstration of the company's commitment to addressing the serious health concerns surrounding youth smoking," Miller said.
The agreement, called an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance," 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 further noted that every day in the United States more than 2,000 people under the age of 18 begin smoking, and that one third of them will one day die from a tobacco-related disease.
The 39 participating states are AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MS, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI and WY.
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