CVS to Strengthen Tobacco Sales Policies

Drug chain in deal with 42 states, DC, on sales to minors

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- CVS Corp. has reached an agreement with the attorneys general of 42 states and the District of Columbia by promising to strengthen practices that keep minors from buying tobacco products, reported the Associated Press.

Under the voluntary settlement, the pharmacy chain agreed to check the identities of customers who attempt to purchase tobacco products if they look younger than 27. CVS officials also agreed to not use self-service displays or vending machines to sell tobacco products, to limit signage and to train employees on state [image-nocss] and local laws regulating tobacco sales.

The Woonsocket, R.I.-based company also must hire an independent monitor to check its compliance at its 5,400 drug stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia. CVS officials did not disclose the cost of implementing the agreement.

Although the agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing, CVS officials signed it to head off legal action threatened by several states for past violations, company spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said.

Prosecutors can still bring legal action if the company fails to adhere to the settlement.

This is something much more amenable to both parties. At the end of the day, we both share the same goal of preventing the sale of tobacco to people underaged, said DeAngelis.

Cash registers at the stores will be reconfigured so they prompt clerks to check a customer's age before completing tobacco sales, DeAngelis said.

This is another significant public health victory affecting the lives of our children and teenagers, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said in a statement. With this agreement, CVS joins the growing number of retailers who are demonstrating their commitment to fostering a healthier environment for our kids in Rhode Island, and throughout our nation.

The CVS Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) is the eighth such agreement produced by an ongoing, aggressive, multi-state effort. Previous agreements cover all 7-Eleven, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Rite Aid stores, and all gas stations and convenience stores operating under the Conoco, Phillips 66 or 76, Exxon, Mobil, BP, Amoco and ARCO brands, in the signing states. Combined, the agreements apply to more than 60,000 retail outlets nationwide.

Launched in 2000, the multi-state enforcement effort by the attorneys general focuses on retailers with poor records of selling tobacco products to minors. State laws prohibit such sales. The enforcement program's goal is to secure the companies' agreement to take specific corrective actions. The agreements incorporate best practices to reduce sales to minors, developed by the attorneys general in consultation with researchers and state and federal tobacco control officials.

CVS separately agreed on Monday to pay up to $200,000 to settle complaints brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly.

Reilly's office took legal action against the pharmacy after it continued to use self-service displays for tobacco products that were banned in a 1998 agreement. His office also accused the retailer of selling tobacco to 13% of minors who participated in stings during 2004 and 2005.

CVS has continued to let children buy tobacco and that is simply unacceptable, Reilly said in a statement.