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    Wal-Mart Reaches Tobacco Deal with 43 States

    Retailer seeks to eliminate cigarette sales to minors through ID checks, no self-serve, other measures.

    NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Tuesday reached an agreement with 43 U.S. states to adopt new procedures to reduce sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors. The agreement is part of a crackdown on retailers and convenience stores around the country that have been found to sell large volumes of tobacco products to minors.

    Under the deal reached, Wal-Mart will be required to check the identification cards of anyone who appears to be under age 27 when they attempt to buy tobacco, and use cash registers programmed to prompt ID checks on all tobacco sales. A spokesman for Wal-Mart said the company entered the agreement voluntarily, after states attorneys general approached it with their concerns.

    "Despite existing laws there are hundreds of thousands of underage people in the U.S. who are still able to buy tobacco," Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams told The Dallas Morning News. "This agreement is really putting the spotlight on that problem."

    Wal-Mart will additionally be prohibited from using self-service tobacco displays, such as vending machines, and from selling smoking paraphernalia like rolling papers, pipes and lighters, to minors.

    The mass merchandiser has also agreed to offer employees training on the rules governing tobacco sales to minors. Williams said Wal-Mart would step up discipline, including possible termination, of sales clerks who do not follow the laws.

    The agreement announced with Wal-Mart mirrors others reached in the past with other retailers like Walgreen Co. and a number of gas station convenience store chains like those operated by Exxon Mobil Corp., which have also exhibited high rates of tobacco sales to minors.

    California says its efforts to limit tobacco use to minors is based on studies showing that more than 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18. Overall, the deal requires Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart to:
    * Train employees on state and local laws and company policies regarding tobacco sales to minors, including explaining the health-related reasons for laws that restrict youth access to tobacco.
    * Check the ID of any person purchasing tobacco products when the person appears to be under age 27, and accept only valid government-issued photo identification as proof of age.
    * Use cash registers programmed to prompt ID checks on all tobacco sales.
    * Hire an independent firm to conduct random compliance checks of about 10 percent of all Wal-Mart stores every six months.
    * Prohibit self-service displays of tobacco products, the use of vending machines to sell tobacco products and the distribution of free samples on store property.
    * Prohibit the sale of smoking paraphernalia to minors.

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