Major Drug Store Chain To Protect Against Tobacco Sales To Minors

Attorney General Spitzer today joined 19 states and the District of Columbia to announce an agreement with one of the nation's leading drug store chains to implement stronger policies to protect against underage tobacco product purchases.

"Shielding our nation's children against early exposure to addictive tobacco products is paramount in protecting public health," Spitzer said.

As part of the agreement, Rite Aid Corporation will implement reforms at its hundreds of stores that include:

  • Training employees about applicable laws and company policies including procedures to check for identification of individuals who appear to be 27 years or younger;
  • Requiring the presentation of appropriate photo identification for tobacco purchases such as driver's licenses; passports; military I.D.s and immigration cards;
  • Implementing an electronic age verification system with programmed cash registers that prompts employees to obtain identification from the customer with the birth ate so that the purchaser's age can be verified;
  • Prohibiting vending machine sales of tobacco products and restricting access of tobacco products in a manner that requires an employee's assistance in retrieving the product;
  • Prohibiting the sale of smoking paraphernalia to minors and ceasing the sale of items made to resemble tobacco products, such as candy and chewing gum;
  • Prohibiting the distribution of free samples of tobacco products anywhere on store premises; and
  • Engaging the services of an independent auditor to conduct random compliance checks of Rite Aid stores.

In settling the multi-state investigation, Rite Aid agreed to pay $250,000 to the participating states.

According to the agreement, more than 80 percent of regular adult smokers began smoking as children. Every day in the United States more than 2,000 children begin smoking cigarettes and one third of those children will one day die from a tobacco-related disease. Data released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicates that, as an average among U.S. retailers, one in every four attempts by a person 15 to 17 years old to purchase cigarettes over the counter results in a sale.

Joining New York State in the settlement with Rite Aid are: Arizona; California; Connecticut; Georgia; Idaho; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Michigan; Mississippi; New Jersey; Ohio; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; Utah; Vermont; Washington and the District of Columbia.

Since 2002, Spitzer's office obtained similar reforms from major retailers of tobacco products such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Walgreens, BP-Amoco and Exxon-Mobil Corporation.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joy Feigenbaum and Melvin Goldberg of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.