Cracking Down On Underage Smoking

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Circle K managers, who want to make it harder for minors to get their hands on tobacco, are putting cigarettes out of reach.


Dale Strothmann, manager of the Payson North Circle K store, said Wednesday that a new program developed by Circle K and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company will remove cigarettes from the front counters and make them accessible to store clerks only.


"Quite honestly, young people are very good at being able to get these products when they're on the front counters," Strothmann said.


Strothmann said 10 to 20 packs of cigarettes are taken each day from the front counter of his store in Payson North. Clerks are busy ringing up sales and long lines of customers make it easy for minors to simply pocket the packs.


"We count cigarettes every day," he said. "We know how many are being taken."


Strothmann said when cigarette-smoking minors are stopped by police, they often lie and say they purchased the cigarettes. This puts the store clerks in danger of losing their jobs, Strothmann said.


"Our main concern, though, is minors smoking," he said. "Even if they took them, but lied, the clerk could lose his job. The benefit is to the clerk and to the community."


Strothmann said Circle K Area Manager Charlie Brewer went to workshops about the new program and store managers have been talking to cigarette representatives for several months knowing this was coming.


Sam Krull, manager of the Circle K Store in Star Valley, said he had just received an e-mail that the equipment needed for the behind-the-counter cigarette display was on its way.


"They said the week of Jan. 3," Krull said. "Representatives from major cigarette companies will be coming to help set them up."


As far as thefts go, Krull estimated six to 10 packs of cigarettes are being taken each day. Krull's store is not near a school and he figures that the cigarettes are mostly taken by people who are down on their luck.


"It's not just Circle K," he said. "I'm sure every store in town has the same problem. Cigarettes on the counter are nothing more than a theft waiting to happen."


Circle K Store officials announced in December that the chain will be the first national convenience retailer to voluntarily restrict access by minors to tobacco products.


In a press release put out by Tosco Marketing Company, Circle K officials said they will put the behind-the-counter displays in each of the company's stores by mid-2000.


"Putting tobacco products out of reach is part of our ongoing effort to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors," said Robert J. Lavinia, president and chief executive officer of Tosco Marketing Company, the Phoenix-based retail division of Tosco Corporation which owns the Circle K chain.


"Each of our sales associates has received specialized training and education to help ensure that minors don't get tobacco products at our stores," Lavinia said.


"In addition to requiring customers who appear to be under 30 to provide a photo ID, we believe that having customers ask for the items discourages minors from attempting to purchase them."


According to the press release, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was on hand for the unveiling of the prototype display in Phoenix. Arpaio said, "Tosco and Circle K have taken an important step toward keeping tobacco out of the hands of children by instituting this approach to responsible tobacco retailing."


Lavinia said the corporation could not have launched the campaign to restrict youth access to tobacco without the cooperation of the major tobacco companies.


The prototype unveiled in Arizona will soon be installed in all Circle K stores in 18 states.


"They have to roll them out to 2,500 stores in Arizona," Strothmann said. "That's why it'll take two to three months to get them in."

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