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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced CVS Pharmacy, Inc., the nation’s largest retail pharmacy, will adopt new procedures to reduce sales of tobacco products to minors at its 5,400 stores across the country, under an agreement reached with California, 42 other states and Washington D.C.
“We owe a duty to our children and our families to do everything we can to make sure youths never start a habit that kills,” said Lockyer. “This agreement, combined with previous best-practices accords reached with major retailers, represent significant progress toward fulfilling that duty. I commend CVS for showing corporate responsibility and helping address a critical public health problem.”
CVS operates 5,400 pharmacies in 37 states and Washington D.C., including 21 stores in California. Attorneys General in six states without CVS outlets signed the agreement. If the company opens pharmacies in those jurisdictions, the outlets will be covered by the agreement.
Additionally, CVS recently announced its plan to purchase of 703 Sav-On and Osco pharmacies now owned by Albertson’s, including 339 in California. Federal regulators neither lodged objections nor imposed conditions on the acquisition. If the transaction passes muster with shareholders and becomes final, the Sav-On and Osco pharmacies will be covered by the tobacco agreement.
The CVS “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” (AVC) is the ninth such agreement produced by an ongoing, multi-state enforcement effort which Lockyer has helped lead.
Previous agreements cover, in the signing states, all Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite Aid and 7-Eleven stores, and all gas stations and convenience stores operating under the Exxon, Mobil, BP, ARCO, Amoco, Conoco, Phillips 66 and 76 brand names.
In addition to the multi-state AVCs, Lockyer and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo in December 2004 reached a similar, court-approved settlement with Safeway, Inc. That agreement covers 538 Safeway, Vons, Pavilions and Pak N’ Save stores in California. The settlement resolved a lawsuit brought by Lockyer and Delgadillo that alleged Safeway violated state laws designed to prevent tobacco sales to minors.
Combined, the AVCs and Safeway settlement cover more than 65,000 retail outlets across the nation. The AVCs provide measures to reduce sales of tobacco products to minors by the nation’s top retail chain (Wal-Mart), number one drug store chain (Walgreens), largest oil company (ExxonMobil), biggest retailer of tobacco products (7-Eleven) and largest retail pharmacy (CVS).
Launched in 2000, the multi-state enforcement effort by a group of 34 Attorneys General focuses on retailers with poor records of selling tobacco products to minors. State laws prohibit such sales. The enforcement program’s goal is to secure the companies’ agreement to take specific corrective actions. The agreements incorporate “best practices” to reduce sales to minors, developed by the Attorneys General in consultation with researchers, and state and federal tobacco control officials.
The AVC limits in-store advertising of tobacco products to brand names, logos and pricing. The AVC also requires signs to be confined to the areas where the products are sold. Additionally, the agreement bans self-service displays of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The AVC also requires CVS to:
● Check the ID of any person purchasing tobacco products when the person appears to be under the age of 27, and accept as proof of age only valid government-issued photo ID.
● Prohibit the following: use of vending machines to sell tobacco products, distribution of free samples, sale of cigarette look-alike products and the sale of smoking paraphernalia to minors.
● Hire an independent entity to conduct random compliance checks twice each year at 468 of its stores in the signing states.
● Train employees on state and local laws and company policies regarding tobacco sales to minors, including explaining the health-related reasons for laws that restrict youth access to tobacco.
The Attorneys General have long recognized that youth access to tobacco products ranks among the most serious public health problems. Studies show 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. Young people are particularly susceptible to the hazards of tobacco, often showing signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes.
In 1999, Lockyer established a full-time Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section to enforce California laws regarding the sale and marketing of tobacco products. The section also enforces the national Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached with tobacco companies in November 1998.
Californians who suspect violations of state tobacco laws or the MSA can file complaints by calling 916-565-6486 at any time, or by writing to the Tobacco Litigation and Enforcement Section at P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550. Additional information is available on the Attorney General’s web site at http://www.ag.ca.gov/tobacco/ .