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Tobacco

Walgreens, Rite Aid to Raise Age for Tobacco Sales

Moves align with efforts to prevent youth access
Photograph: Shutterstock

DEERFIELD, Ill., and CAMP HILL, Pa. Two major drugstore chains announced they would be raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products at their stores from 18, which is the federal minimum, to 21.

Walgreens announced a chainwide policy to require customers to be at least 21 years old in order to purchase tobacco products in its stores. The policy will take effect Sept. 1 and is the most recent step in its ongoing effort to prevent youth access to tobacco products.

Rite Aid followed suit, announcing its policy would take effect within 90 days.

The moves come days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would introduce legislation to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 on a federal level, with some exceptions for military personnel. Other businesses, including tobacco manufacturers, have recently echoed Walgreens and Rite Aid’s sentiments.

“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, president of operations for Walgreens. “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 new “Tobacco 21” policy reinforces other recent steps the company has taken, including the implementation of a “Card All” policy chainwide last October, which requires verification regardless of age on all tobacco sales in Walgreens stores.

Walgreens officials said it has supported similar legislative proposals to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products. Delaware was the most recent state to enact such a law.

Additionally, the company said it will continue to focus on promoting cessation products and services, and offers digital information and support tools to patients who want to quit smoking.

“Raising the age for purchasing tobacco products is an important step in our efforts to ensure that these products do not fall into the hands of children and teens,” said Bryan Everett, chief operating officer for Rite Aid Corp. “Our decision is directly related to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that shows over 80% of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before they turned 18, and nearly 95% started before age 21. By raising the purchase age, we are furthering our commitment to promoting responsible access to tobacco products.”

Rite Aid will continue to enforce its chainwide “ID All” policy that requires identification to purchase age-restricted items, including tobacco products. Earlier this month, the chain also announced that it would stop selling electronic cigarettes and vaping products at all locations within 90 days.

Walgreens, Deerfield, Ill., is one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, with about 8 million customers interacting with Walgreens in stores and online each day. Walgreens has about 9,560 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rite Aid Corp., Camp Hill, Pa., has about 2,500 stores in its 19-state network and has fiscal 2019 annual revenues of $21.6 billion.

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