Coverage: Walmart is raising the tobacco age to 21
Walmart Inc., one of the biggest U.S. cigarette sellers, is raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 in all its stores and will stop selling fruit-flavored e-cigarettes, amid pressure from regulators to curb use by children and teens.
Sarah Nassauer and Jennifer Maloney of The Wall Street Journal had the news:
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called out the country’s largest retailer for being a top violator of illegally selling tobacco products to minors. The FDA sent similar letters to Family Dollar, which is owned byDollar Tree Corp. , Kroger Co. and others.
The new sales restrictions will start July 1 across all Walmart’s locations, including its warehouse chain Sam’s Club, Walmart said Wednesday.
E-cigarette startups like Juul Labs Inc. selling nicotine liquids with fruit and dessert flavors such as mango and creme have contributed to a rise in underage use, according to the FDA. Juul says its products are intended for adults and supports raising the minimum purchase age to 21 nationwide.
Walmart’s action follows similar moves by other retailers in the wake of FDA criticism and bills introduced in the House and Senate that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco nationwide to 21 from 18.
Julia LaRoche of Yahoo Finance reported that the company plans to use secret shoppers to monitor the change:
In a letter to the Food & Drug Administration, the retail giant said it was also in the process of discontinuing the sale of fruit and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)—otherwise known as e-cigarettes.
“We unequivocally acknowledge that even a single sale of a tobacco product to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard,” wrote John Scudder, Walmart’s U.S. chief compliance and ethics officer.
“The FDA can be assured that we will remain focused on improving our compliance program and rates and that any sale-to-minor violation will be handled promptly and appropriately,” Scudder added.
Scudder said Walmart plans to conduct 8,000 “secret-shopper” visits using a third party service at its U.S. stores to monitor age-verification processes. The company also plans to use virtual reality to train its associates in scenarios around the sale of tobacco products.
Sandra E. Garcia of the New York Times reported that there’s also plans in Congress to raise the age:
Last month Senator Mitch McConnell — who has been a big supporter of the tobacco industry — said he would introduce a bill to raise the minimum age to 21 to buy tobacco and e-cigarette products. Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said he was motivated by the popularity of vaping among teenagers and young adults.
In a letter to the F.D.A., Walmart said that since 2010 the agency had conducted 12,800 retailer compliance checks involving minors at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, with the stores passing 93 percent and 99 percent of the checks. Last year, Walmart stores passed 94 percent of more than 2,400 checks, and Sam’s Club stores passed all of its 15 checks.
In response, Walmart said it was also going to reinforce its age verification training using virtual-reality technology to “reduce the likelihood of sales of age-restricted products to minors.”