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Tobacco

FDA Updates Age Calculator

App now accounts for states with tobacco-purchase ages of 19 or 21

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its age-checking app to account for the many municipalities and states that have changed the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 19 or 21.

In July 2017, the FDA released a free, voluntary smartphone application called the “FDA Age Calculator” on Google Play and iTunes. The app is aimed to help retailers comply with age-restriction laws.

As originally introduced, the app uses the camera feature on a smartphone to scan the driver’s license of a tobacco purchaser to determine if the customer is at least 18 years of age (the federal minimum age to buy a tobacco product). The birthdate listed on the photo ID can also be manually entered into the app by the retailer for a quick age calculation.

While the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco remains 18, some states and municipalities have adopted higher age-of-purchase minimums, with some being 19 and others 21.

The FDA recently updated the app to allow retailers to adjust the age used when calculating if the purchaser is old enough to buy tobacco products. “This update allows the app to continue to be a beneficial tool in preventing youth from accessing tobacco products for all retailers, regardless of varying state and local age restrictions,” the FDA said in a statement May 8.

The agency will also make new age-verification calendars available to retailers in jurisdictions that have a more restrictive minimum age to purchase tobacco products. The calendars were originally released as part of the agency’s voluntary retailer-education program, “This is Our Watch,” which was published in November 2017 and uses the federal minimum age of 18.

During compliance-check inspections of tobacco retailers, the FDA will continue to determine if retailers are complying with the federal minimum age of 18 years to purchase tobacco products, agency officials said in a statement.

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