September 30, 2003

SEPTEMBER 30, 2003



Attorney General Steven Rowe joined the Attorneys General of 42 other states today in announcing an agreement under which Wal-Mart will implement new policies and procedures to reduce tobacco sales to minors in Wal-Mart stores throughout the nation, including all 24 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in Maine.

The agreement requires Wal-Mart to:

                      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.

                      Check the identification (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.

                      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 Wal-Mart’s 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.

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.

Wal-Mart’s assurance of voluntary compliance is the most recent agreement produced by an ongoing, multi-state enforcement effort. Rowe and other attorneys general previously reached agreements that apply to all Walgreens stores and to all 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.  Enforcement inspections have found that while Wal-Mart stores in Maine have a better non-compliance rate than in other states there is room for improvement. Two Maine locations have had repeat violations and are currently implementing many of the terms of the new agreement under settlements previously reached with the State.

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