Walgreens announced it will no longer sell tobacco to customers under 21, effect September 1.
The company said this “is the most recent step in an ongoing effort to further prevent youth access to tobacco products.”
The federal tobacco age is still 18, but 12 states have enacted laws to raise the purchasing age of tobacco products to 21. And U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently announced plans to introduce legislation in the U.S. Senate in May to raise the nationwide minimum age.
Walgreens said its new Tobacco 21 policy aligns with the efforts of states and municipalities who have recently enacted, or are considering, laws to restrict tobacco sales to people 21 and older.
“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 Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations. “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.”
The change comes amidst U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pressure. On March 4, the FDA published a letter to Ashworth, signed by former FDA Commissioner Scott Gotlieb, about Walgreens’ “repeated violations of restrictions on the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors.”
The letter said that among pharmacy chains that sell tobacco products, Walgreens is the top violator, with 22% of the stores inspected having illegally sold tobacco products to minors.
“I hope that Walgreens, like other national pharmacy chains, will take seriously not only your legal obligations, but also the substantial public health impact that you can make by preventing tobacco product sales to minors at your stores,” said Gottlieb.
Walgreens competitor CVS banned all tobacco sales from its stores in 2014, and Rite Aid said will stop selling e-cigarettes within the next three months.