Walmart To Increase Minimum Buying Age To 21 For Tobacco And Vape Products

Sen. Brian Schatz speaks at a news conference about the Tobacco to 21 Act (Photo: Reuters)

Amidst growing regulatory and political pressure to stop the surge in teen tobacco and e-cigarette use, Walmart has announced that it will be increasing the minimum age of purchase for its tobacco products to 21-years old. The policy will take effect on all of its stores across the United States starting on July 1 of this year. The move has been seen as a direct response to the government's push to decrease the use of tobacco products throughout the country.

Walmart also stated that it will be halting its distribution of fruit and dessert-flavored e-juices, which is the liquid used for electronic cigarettes. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently put national retailers on notice for their open distribution of electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors. The companies placed on notice included large retailers such as Kroger, Walgreens, Family Dollar Stores, and Walmart.

As part of its campaign, Walmart revealed that it was going to be increasing its disciplinary actions against any workers found to be selling tobacco products to minors. Workers have also been instructed to routinely check the IDs of shoppers who appear to be under the age of 21.

The first retailers to increase their minimum age to buy tobacco products were Walgreens and Rite Aid. To officially make the policy applicable to all retailers, US Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to pass legislation that would effectively increase the minimum age for tobacco products and vaping devices from 18 years old to 21 years old.

Lawmakers and health experts are still debating the possible negative effects of e-cigarettes. Advocates of the technology argue that e-cigarettes have the potential of helping life-long smokers transition into a less harmful product. Meanwhile, others argue that e-cigarettes could potentially create a new generation of people addicted to nicotine.

US Lawmakers and health organizations have continually urged states to raise the legal age limit to prevent nicotine addiction. According to a study conducted by the National Academy of Medicine, over 90 percent of adults who become daily smokers had started the habit before they were 19-years old. The study also showed that raising the age limit to 21 would prevent at least 223,000 people from premature deaths.

Following the push, 12 states have so far enacted laws to raise the legal limit to 21-years old. This included states such as California and New Jersey. Following a string of compliance checks by the FDA, the agency concluded that it was not satisfied with the results as it still had not achieved its goal of 100 percent compliance. 

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