Walgreens, Rite Aid raise minimum age to buy tobacco to 21

The move comes after Walgreens was criticized by the FDA.

April 23, 2019, 6:09 PM

Walgreens has risen the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 years old after it received criticism from the FDA earlier this year for selling tobacco products to minors.

The policy will be implemented chain-wide starting Sept. 1, the drug store company announced Tuesday in a press release, calling the change "the most recent step in an ongoing effort to further prevent youth access to tobacco products."

"We’ve seen positive results from other recent efforts to strengthen our policies related to tobacco sales, and believe this next step can be even more impactful to reduce its use among teens and young adults," said Walgreens President of Operations Richard Ashworth. "Through ongoing training and certification for pharmacists and technicians, we also continue to help and support people looking to quit the use of tobacco in their lives.”

PHOTO: A Walgreens Pharmacy in Miami, April 2, 2019.
A Walgreens Pharmacy in Miami, April 2, 2019.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In March, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb accused Walgreens of being a top violator among drugstores that sell tobacco products, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, to minors, according to The Associated Press. Since 2010, Inspectors found 1,800 instances in which Walgreens stores violated the law.

At the time, Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn said the company prohibited sales to minors and that employees that violate that policy would be fired immediately. Walgreens has more than 9,500 stores in the U.S., according to AP.

Rite Aid announced later on Tuesday that it will also hike the age to purchase tobacco to 21 chain-wide. Rite Aid's new policy will go into effect in 90 days.

Rite Aid Corporation CEO Bryan Everett described the move as "an important step" to ensure that tobacco does not fall into the hands of children and teens.

"Our decision is directly related to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that shows over 80 percent of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before they turned 18, and nearly 95 percent started before age 21,: Everett said in a statement. "By raising the purchase age, we are furthering our commitment to promoting responsible access to tobacco products."

The new policy aligns with recent efforts by states and municipalities to restrict tobacco sales to customers 21 and older, according to Walgreens.

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