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For Immediate Release
August 13, 2002
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357

ATTORNEY GENERAL CURRAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT WITH EXXONMOBIL TO CURB TOBACCO SALES TO MINORS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that he and the Attorneys General of 43 other states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana and Virgin Islands, announced today that the Exxon Mobil Corporation has voluntarily agreed to implement new policies to reduce the sale of tobacco products to minors.

The Agreement is the result of ongoing discussions between the Attorneys General and ExxonMobil, the country's largest oil company, on how best to address the problem of minors obtaining tobacco products at gas stations and convenience stores bearing the Exxon or Mobil brand names. Research indicates that almost half of youth under the age of 18 who report buying cigarettes identify gas stations as their primary point of purchase.

In addition to agreeing to standards in its company-operated stores for the hiring, training, and monitoring of its employees regarding the sale of tobacco products, ExxonMobil will also attempt to ensure that the approximately 16,000 stations displaying the Exxon or Mobil names but not operated by the ExxonMobil Corporation comply with laws governing the sale of tobacco to minors. These franchisees will commit in writing to preventing underage tobacco sales on their premises and will be subject to termination if they fail to do so.

The Attorneys General have long recognized that underage access to tobacco products is an ongoing problem. Studies show that more than 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18, and that each year 12,800 Maryland youth start a smoking habit. Maryland youth buy or smoke more than 12 million packs of cigarettes each year and, if trends continue, 85,000 Maryland kids alive today will ultimately die from smoking. Cutting off youth access to cigarettes at the retail level is considered one step toward healthier Maryland kids who will become healthy adults.

This announcement reflects the continuation of the Attorney General's Program to Reduce Youth Access to Tobacco, as his Office works with other government agencies to develop a comprehensive enforcement effort to stop the sale of tobacco products to underage buyers, and with tobacco retailers who want to adopt policies and practices designed to reduce youth sales. Curran's office recently distributed his Tobacco Retailers Guide; Reducing Youth Access to Tobacco Products to Maryland's 7,000 tobacco retailers. The Guide sets forth the law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 years of age and details the criminal penalties–from $300 to $3,000 per violation–for selling cigarettes to minors. Any retailer selling tobacco products to minors could be subject to civil and criminal sanctions depending upon where the violation occurs.

"Since our settlement with big tobacco in 1998, youth smoking has been on the decline," Attorney General Curran said. "But, not nearly enough. We will not be satisfied as long as children can walk into a store and obtain cigarettes. We will continue our enforcement efforts and to work with retailers across Maryland to make sure that persons under 18 are unable to obtain tobacco products of any kind."

A 2001 compliance check by Curran's Office, involving 42 purchase attempts by minors in three Maryland jurisdictions, revealed that the children were able to buy cigarettes in 62 percent of the attempts.

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