Walmart Raising Tobacco Buying Age to 21

Stores to also discontinue selling fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes
Photograph: Shutterstock

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart will raise its minimum age for selling tobacco products from 18 to 21, following similar moves by two large drugstore chains, the mass merchandiser announced. Walmart also said it will stop selling  fruit- and dessert-flavored vaping devices.

In a statement posted on its website May 8, the Bentonville, Ark.-based big-box retailer said it will enact these two new policies as of July 1 across its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores nationwide.

“There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how companies restrict the sales of tobacco to minors,” John Scudder, U.S. chief compliance and ethics officer for Walmart Inc., wrote in response to an April 5 letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) letter about the chain’s policies. “While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our companywide goal of 100% compliance. “

On May 8, Walmart sent a letter back to the FDA outlining additional measures it will take to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors, including raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products at its stores and discontinuing the sale of certain flavored vaping products.

In its letter, the chain noted that in 2018, Walmart achieved a 94% compliance rate after the FDA did 2,400 checks at Walmart stores, while its Sam’s Clubs achieved a 100% compliance rate after 15 checks.

The decision follows similar moves from Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens and Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid, both of which said they would raise their minimum buying age for tobacco to 21.

Similarly, efforts from both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate were receiving bipartisan support this spring.

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