Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

May 17 2011

Circle K stores to strengthen procedures to check ID, cut back on sales and marketing

OLYMPIA – Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today that he joined 39 other Attorneys General in an agreement to eliminate underage tobacco sales at certain convenience stores.

The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement with Circle K Stores, Inc. and Mac’s Convenience Stores LLC, covers about 4,000 tobacco-selling convenience stores in 32 states. Stores covered by the agreement operate under the names Circle K, Dairymart, and On The Run. There are currently 59 stores in Washington affected by the agreement.

Circle K will adopt procedures designed to reduce sales and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors in all of its approximately 3,000 corporate-owned stores, and will adopt various methods designed to curb underage tobacco sales at another 1,000 franchise locations.

“Teens tend to view convenience stores as places where access to tobacco is easier,” McKenna said. “That’s why I appreciate that Circle K is stepping up to join the companies strengthening procedures to curtail tobacco sales to minors, both in Washington state and nationwide."
The agreement was produced by an ongoing, multi-state enforcement effort among the attorneys general, and incorporates "best practices" developed in consultation with public health experts and tobacco control officials.  The agreement with Circle K includes provisions for comprehensive training of retail personnel, independent compliance checks to monitor sales practices, advising contract operators that there will be serious ramifications for underage tobacco sales, and several other protections.

Previous multistate agreements have covered gas station convenience stores selling fuel under the Conoco, Phillips 66 or 76, Exxon, Mobil, BP Amoco, Shell, Valero, ARCO and Chevron brand names, and retail and pharmacy chains Kroger, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walmart.

The agreement notes that the great majority of adult smokers started before they reached eighteen; that young people show signs of addiction after smoking only a few cigarettes; and that the younger a person begins to smoke the more likely he or she will be unable to quit and will suffer from a tobacco-related disease.

Details of the agreement include:

  • ID of all persons who appear to be under 30 will be checked, 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 to prevent tobacco use by minors.


Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725