December 21, 2005
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attacking underage smoking at one of the primary sources where tobacco is illegally purchased — convenience stores — Attorney General Jay Nixon today announced an agreement with one of the nation's largest oil companies to discourage the sale of tobacco to minors.
Nixon said the agreement between 40 state Attorneys General and ConocoPhillips Co. would cover approximately 10,000 gas stations and convenience stores nationwide operating under the Conoco, 76 or Phillips 66 trademarks, including 900 stores in Missouri.
Of those 900 stores and stations in Missouri, 21 are directly owned by the company and the remaining 879 are independently owned businesses that have contracts with ConocoPhillips to operate under one of the company's trademarks. Under the agreement with the Attorneys General, ConocoPhillips agreed to include provisions in these contracts expressly requiring compliance with legal prohibitions against tobacco sales to minors.
"Most smokers pick up the habit when they're in their teens and cannot legally buy tobacco," Nixon said. "Unfortunately, the corner convenience store has too often been an illegal point of purchase when clerks don't ask for proof of age. This requirement in the ConocoPhillips contracts will be a powerful incentive for franchisees to stop underage tobacco sales."
When franchise and trademark license agreements are renewed or new ones are entered into, ConocoPhillips will require franchisees and trademark licensees to report any underage tobacco sales infractions that occur, through law enforcement "stings" or other means. Nixon said this reporting requirement, coupled with the awareness that violations can jeopardize the right to operate under company trademarks, should motivate independent operators to stop tobacco sales to minors.
ConocoPhillips also will write to each franchisee and trademark licensee annually to remind them of the importance of preventing tobacco sales to minors and the fact that non-compliance with underage tobacco sales laws could constitute grounds for ending their right to operate under the ConocoPhillips trademarks.
In addition to the requirements for the franchisees, the 21 company-owned stores in Missouri will be required to implement policies and procedures to curtail illegal tobacco sales, including:
Nixon said those requirements also would serve as model safeguards for ConocoPhillips franchisees. The company also will designate an employee who will be responsible for addressing compliance with underage tobacco sale laws, and who will monitor reports of infractions by company-owned outlets as well as by franchisees.
The agreement, called an "assurance of voluntary compliance," noted that 47 percent of youth who report buying cigarettes identify gas stations as their primary point of purchase, and another 27 percent identify convenience stores. The agreement further noted that every day in the United States more than 2,000 people under the age of 18 begin smoking, and that a third of them will one day die from a tobacco-related disease.
Under the agreement, ConocoPhillips also agreed to pay the Attorneys General $125,000 for the costs incurred by the states in investigation and negotiation.
In addition to Missouri, the other participating states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.