TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced today that New Jersey has signed onto a multistate settlement agreement with Circle K Stores Inc. and its sister company, Macs’s Convenience Stores, designed to prevent the sale of tobacco products to underage buyers.
The agreement calls for Circle K to engage in comprehensive training of its retail personnel, periodic “mystery shopper” checks to ensure proper sales practices, the cautioning of franchise operators that selling tobacco to underage buyers will result in serious consequences, and other measures, the AG’s office said in a release.
Circle K is the nation’s second largest operator of convenience stores, with approximately 3,000 company-owned retail outlets across the country and 1,000 franchise locations. Circle K stores operate under the trade names Circle K, Dairymart and On the Run. In New Jersey, there are 25 Circle K stores currently operating, according to the release.
It is illegal under New Jersey law to sell tobacco to persons under age 19. Dow commended Circle K for its readiness to work with the state and other states on behalf of preventing such sales.
“This agreement is about a corporation taking responsibility for what occurs on its premises, and about the private sector working cooperatively with government toward a common objective – namely keeping cigarettes and other tobacco products out of the hands of minors,” said Dow in the release.
The settlement announced today is the product of an on-going effort involving attorneys general throughout the United States, and incorporates “best practices” developed in consultation with public health experts and tobacco control officials. In addition to New Jersey, a total of 39 other states and the District of Columbia are party to the settlement agreement.
The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Circle K includes the following terms (among others) relative to tobacco sales and marketing:
– Identification must be checked on all persons who appear to be under 30 to protect against mistakes by clerks in evaluating a person’s age by appearance alone.
– In-store advertising of tobacco must be limited in ways intended to reduce the effect on young people, and outdoor advertising is to be eliminated at stores within 500 feet of playgrounds or schools.
– Employee training will focus on the mechanics of eliminating underage tobacco sales, and will also emphasize the serious health issues that give rise to the legal efforts to restrict youth access to tobacco.
– Circle K will test itself on the effectiveness of its own safeguards against underage sales by conducting mystery shopper compliance checks at 500 of its stores every six months.
– Circle K voluntarily agreed to pay the attorneys general a total of $225,000 to be used for such purposes as consumer education, public protection, or the implementation of programs protecting against tobacco use by minors