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For Immediate Release
September 30, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

CURRAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT TO CURB TOBACCO SALES TO MINORS IN WAL-MART STORES

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his Consumer Protection Division and the offices of 42 other attorneys general have entered into an agreement with Wal-Mart under which the giant retailer will implement new policies and procedures to reduce tobacco sales to minors in Wal-mart stores throughout the nation, including 51 Wal-Mart and SAM'S CLUB stores in Maryland. Attorney General Curran led this 43-state effort along with the attorneys general of California, Iowa and New York.

"This agreement with top state law enforcement officials expresses a commitment by Wal-Mart to better protect the health of its young customers," Curran said.

The Wal-Mart "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" is the most recent agreement produced by an ongoing, multistate enforcement effort. Curran and other attorneys general previously reached agreements that apply to Walgreens stores and to gas stations and convenience stores operating under the Exxon, Mobil, BP, Amoco, and ARCO brand names in their states.

The enforcement effort focuses on retailers that have high rates of tobacco sales to minors. The goal is to secure their agreement to adopt policies and practices to prevent youth access to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The agreement requires Wal-Mart to do the following:

• Train employees to prevent tobacco sales to minors.
• Check the ID of any person purchasing tobacco products when the person appears to be under age 27, and only accept currently valid government-issued photo identification as proof of age.
• Use cash registers programmed to prompt ID checks on all tobacco sales.
• Evaluate cashiers' compliance with ID check requirements
• Hire an independent entity to conduct random compliance checks of approximately 10% of all Wal-mart stores every six months.
• Prohibit self-service displays of tobacco products, the use of vending machines to sell tobacco products, and the distribution of free samples on store property.
• Prohibit the sale of smoking paraphernalia to minors.

The attorneys general will monitor compliance with the agreement and have reserved the right to enforce future violations of the agreement as well as the laws governing sale of tobacco to minors. Wal-Mart also agreed to pay $437,500 to the states, of which Maryland will receive more than $48,000.

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 begin smoking and that one-third of those persons will one day 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.

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