Safeway Tobacco Suit Settled

PLEASANTON, Calif. - Safeway, Inc. and the state of California last week settled a lawsuit charging that the food retailer sold cigarettes to underage customers and allowed further such sales at its stores.

According to the terms of the settlement, Safeway must pay $245,000 in penalties and legal costs, as well as do a better job of preventing sales to minors at its 538 stores in the state, said Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last June, by Lockyer and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

Undercover inspections performed by state health officials earlier this year allegedly revealed that, when the minors who asked for them, Safeway stores were selling tobacco products to underage consumers almost 30 percent of the time.

Also last week, Safeway launched a public education and employee training program aimed at informing consumers and employees about California tobacco laws. The program, designed with the help of Lockyer and Delgadillo, is part of the attorney general's statewide effort to significantly reduce the purchase of tobacco products by underage teens.

"Safeway takes the sale of tobacco products to minors seriously," said Safeway e.v.p. Larree Renda. "We have worked with Attorney General Lockyer to develop a program that makes Safeway a leader in helping reduce the purchase of tobacco products by underage teens."

The retailer will appoint a compliance officer to oversee policies and programs relating to tobacco sales, and contract with an independent organization to conduct compliance verification checks, among other new activities. "Safeway will continue working to strengthen programs aimed at reducing underage smoking," noted Renda.
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