Safeway Agrees To Settle Lawsuit Related to Tobacco Sales to Minors
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) on Thursday announced that Safeway will take measures to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors and pay $245,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the state and the city of Los Angeles, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3).
Lockyer in June filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that Safeway grocery stores sold tobacco to California minors numerous times and did not take sufficient precautions to prevent future sales to minors despite state warnings. The lawsuit cites 48 incidents in 158 undercover investigations between July 2000 and May 2004 in which the supermarket chain allegedly sold tobacco products to underage buyers.
Some of the stores investigated were also cited for not displaying warning signs or tobacco sales permits. The lawsuit, filed jointly with Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, charges that Safeway stores sold tobacco to underage customers 30% of the time this year through March and 42.1% of the time in 2003 (California Healthline, 6/17).
Under the agreement, which was approved by a judge, 538 Safeway, Vons, Pavilions and Pak 'N Save stores in the state will check identification of customers buying tobacco products who appears to be younger than age 27, ban sales to minors of candy and chewing gum designed to look like cigarettes, restrict advertising displays and hire an outside inspector to randomly check 90 stores for compliance annually (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3).
The stores also will program cash registers to prompt ID checks on tobacco sales, limit the number of places in the store where tobacco products are displayed and train employees on state law, as well as store policies, regarding tobacco sales to minors.
Lockyer said, "The settlement is a victory for California's children," adding, "I'm pleased Safeway has agreed to take the path of corporate responsibility and help address this serious public health problem."
Larree Renda, Safeway executive vice president, said, "Safeway takes the sale of tobacco products to minors seriously. This new initiative will strengthen our ongoing programs and help send a clear message to minors not to attempt purchasing tobacco products at our stores."
Bruce Leistikow, professor of public health sciences at the University of California-Davis, said the new measures will marginally improve the rate of tobacco sales to minors and questioned why only 90 stores would be checked annually.
Tom Dresslar, spokesperson for Lockyer, said the office is working with other retailers on the same issues (Swett, Sacramento Bee, 12/3).