7-Eleven Deal Targets Young Smokers

Published in CSP Daily News

Settlement an extension of MSA

DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc.'s agreement to step up its efforts to avoid selling to tobacco products to under-aged consumers will mean more training for its employees, as well as increased efforts to educate employees and consumers about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

The Dallas-based convenience store chain also has agreed to hire consultants to spy on stores in what state Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called a major strike against Big Tobacco, according to the Connecticut Post.

But 7-Eleven spokesperson [image-nocss] Margaret Chabris noted that most of the company's 5,931 stores are owned not by the company but by franchisees, and thus exempt from the national settlement. Chabris did, however, say 7-Eleven Inc. will encourage franchise owners to clamp down on sales of smokes to youngsters by offering training and in-store signage to them.

Blumenthal said that as part of the 1998 multi-billion-dollar Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry, attorneys general throughout the country have attempted to clamp down on the way gas stations and convenience stores are sometimes lax in refusing underage smokers.

"This agreement with 7-Eleven is very, very important as a step toward stopping underage smoking," Blumenthal said. "It imposes training requirements and policy mandates. From now on, the sales and display of cigarettes can take place only in very select areas of 7-Eleven stores."

The chain also voluntarily agreed to train store employees to check the identification of anyone who appears to be younger than 27, nine years above the 18-year-old requirement for purchasers of tobacco products.

The company also agreed to run random compliance visits at all of its stores in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Blumenthal said that while the agreement signed Thursday was voluntary, "our very strong expression of interest" brought the company to the bargaining table.

The 7-Eleven "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" is the fifth such agreement produced by an ongoing, multi-state enforcement effort. Previous agreements cover all Wal-Mart and Walgreens stores and all gas stations and convenience stores operating under the Exxon and BP brand names in the participating states.

Other points highlighted by Chabris, include:

While there are not many differences in the way 7-Eleven was merchandising/selling tobacco products, there are measures that will be strengthened because of this agreement.

In anticipation of the AVC agreement, the company began a formal mystery-shop program using an independent company earlier this year.

Money has been allocated to support consumer tobacco education programs and to cover their costs of negotiation for the AGs. 7-Eleven will pay a total of $375,000 under the agreement.

The company trains store employees how to sell age-restricted products upon their initial hiring and will retrain them annually as a follow-up measure. It also is supplementing its existing age-restricted product training program by including information regarding the health-related aspects of using tobacco products.

7-Eleven's company-operated stores will not allow tobacco sampling. The company-operated stores will not sell rolling papers to minors. Also, the company will not sell single cigarettes or packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes, which is illegal in many states.

Store windows will not have any external advertising at sites located within 500 feet of a school or playground.

7-Eleven has, and will continue to have, a point-of-sale register prompt for store employees to check the age ID when scanning age-restricted products.

The company will strongly recommend to its franchisees, who operate more than 60% of 7-Eleven Inc.'s U.S. stores, to adopt similar practices.

State technology varies on state ID cards. 7-Eleven would like to see states adopt uniform technology. Until that happens, the company will monitor the development of electronic age-verification systems to try and find technology that enables our systems to efficiently read multiple states' electronic stripes.

7-Eleven is encouraging other convenience retailers to adopt similar procedures for the merchandising and sale of tobacco products.