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October 9, 2008

Shell Oil Agrees to Curb Tobacco Sales to Minors

Agreement covers about 13,000 Shell outlets nationwide, and 78 in Iowa.

Shell Oil Products will undertake a battery of policies and procedures designed to prevent the sale of tobacco products to children at 78 Shell-related gas stations and convenience stores in Iowa and more than 13,000 outlets across the nation, Attorney General Tom Miller said Thursday.

Miller said Shell Oil Products and its joint venture, Motiva Enterprises LLC, have entered an agreement with 46 state AGs and the District of Columbia that provides for training of key personnel to avoid sales to youths, independent checks to monitor whether stations are complying, potential sanctions against contract operators that sell tobacco to minors, and many other safeguards.

“This is another action to keep kids from tobacco addiction,” Miller said. “We know that eight out of ten smokers started as kids. We know that young people are particularly susceptible to the hazards of tobacco, and often show signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes,” he said.

“We also know that almost half of underage youths who report buying cigarettes say they get them at gas station convenience stores,” Miller said. “That’s why this is so important. We need to take every possible step to prevent youth smoking, addiction, and premature death caused by tobacco.”

The Shell Oil agreement, an “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” or AVC, was negotiated by an ongoing, multi-state enforcement project initiated by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. The Shell agreement is the twelfth reached between most of the states and major tobacco retailers that operate gas service stations, grocery stores, pharmacies and other outlets. Go to:  Shell Oil Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.

“Our agreements now cover about 94,500 retail stores,” Miller said. “We commend Shell and all the companies for these efforts to protect our kids and protect public health.”

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More background and details:

Shell/Motiva: The multi-state “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” or AVC is with Shell Oil Products US and its joint venture, Motiva Enterprises LLC. Shell and Motiva supply gasoline through approximately 14,000 gas stations in the U.S. – more than 13,000 of which are in the 46 states joining the agreement. Many of these gas stations include independently-operated convenience stores that sell tobacco products. Shell and Motiva have agreed to adopt procedures designed to reduce sales of cigarettes to minors at these locations, although the companies do not directly own or operate the convenience stores at Shell stations. There are 78 Shell stations in Iowa.

Steps to reduce tobacco sales to youths: Shell/Motiva agreed to numerous measures to avoid tobacco sales to minors at its stores, including training on tobacco laws and company policies for avoiding sales to youths; providing anonymous performance checks by an independent entity to verify compliance; promoting the use of cash registers that remind clerks to check a tobacco customer’s photo identification if the person appears to be under age 27; and many other measures.

The multi-state effort to curb tobacco sales to youth: The Shell/Motiva agreement is the twelfth such agreement reached between major tobacco retailers and most of the states. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office pioneered the project and continues to help lead the states in reaching agreements with giant retail chains to adopt strong measures to prevent sales to minors.

Previous agreements cover, in the signing states, all 7-Eleven, CVS, Wal-Mart, Kroger, 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. Combined, the agreements cover about 94,500 retail outlets across the nation.

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 began 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.

“Iowa law prohibits tobacco sales to minors, and for good reason,” he said. “We help stop kids from smoking by requiring compliance with the law and limiting youth access to cigarettes. And for every child that doesn’t become a smoker, it’s a health victory for the child and for the state.”

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