Walmart announced that beginning July 1, its stores will raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. Walmart will also stop selling fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes as part of its multi-step plan to prevent minors from purchasing tobacco products.
The planned policy changes come a month after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reprimanded and threatened to impose fines on Walmart, Kroger, Family Dollar and several convenience store chains for selling tobacco products to minors. At the time, Walmart had a violation rate of 17% during its regulatory checks, according to CNBC.
“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,” John Scudder, Walmart’s U.S. chief ethics and compliance officer, said in a letter sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In the letter, Scudder also said Walmart plans to conduct 8,000 secret-shopper checks at its stores. Employees and stores that fail the checks will face disciplinary actions. In addition, the stores will no longer sell the fruity or dessert-flavored e-cigarettes, citing the FDA’s research that teen smokers are drawn to those types of products.
Amid pressure from the FDA, Walmart joins a growing number of stores that are raising the minimum age for tobacco purchases. Both Walgreens and Rite Aid already announced they’ll be raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. CVS Health in 2014 stopped selling tobacco products altogether.
More states are also raising the minimum age for buying tobacco. As of May 2019, there are a dozen states who have, or have plans to, raise the age to 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The states with policies already in place are Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Maine and Massachusetts. States that will be implementing similar plans include Illinois, Virginia, Delaware, Arkansas, Washington and Utah. More than 450 municipalities have raised the minimum age for tobacco product purchases, as well.
Do you think Walmart is making the right decision by raising the minimum age of tobacco purchases?