Speedway Settles Tobacco Suit

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Speedway Settles Tobacco Suit

BURNSVILLE, Minn. -- One of the nation's stiffest penalties for selling cigarettes to minors was lifted yesterday when the Burnsville City Council voted to accept $67,500 toward a youth-smoking prevention program to settle a federal lawsuit with Speedway SuperAmerica.

Five months after Burnsville fined a SuperAmerica station $10,000 and revoked its license to sell tobacco for a year, the City Council agreed to reinstate the license immediately, according to the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.

Earlier this year, the council voted to suspend the store's license to sell tobacco products after store clerks were caught selling tobacco products to minors five times in two years.

In exchange for the City Council's ruling, Speedway SuperAmerica will drop a federal lawsuit and donate 40 percent of the costs to run for two years a planned Burnsville program to eliminate youth access to tobacco. The city will keep the $10,000 fine, which was collected in early March. About $460,000, or 20 percent, of the Burnsville store's 2001 sales came from the sale of tobacco products, the report said.

Speedway SuperAmerica spokeswoman Linda Casey said the Enon, Ohio-based chain was pleased with the settlement. "We feel it's a good resolution to the problem for both parties," she said.

Speedway SuperAmerica also agreed to participate with the City of Burnsville in a "Best Practices Program," a retail program designed to halt the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Over the next few months, all five SSA stores located in Burnsville will serve as test participants in the program. The chain will work with local officials to implement the program communitywide and will underwrite a share of the cost of the Best Practices Program over the next two years.

The Best Practices Program is currently being developed jointly with retailers and lawmakers, and will be presented to the city council in September for approval.

The program will use a variety of methods to combat the problem of underage sales, including internal training programs provided by the Burnsville Police Department for retailers, a rewards program designed to recognize individual employees who successfully block the sale of tobacco to underage customers, a system of verified self-reporting by retailers of successful blocked sales, and a joint public relations campaign advertising the Best Practices system.

"Speedway SuperAmerica is excited about participating in the Best Practices Program," said Dave Kaspar, SSA's Minnesota division vice president. "As members of the Burnsville business community, it is our intent to follow all applicable sales laws and support our employees with the best available training."