While state legislatures all over the country are considering whether to raise the age to buy tobacco products, the largest retailer in the U.S. is making its own decision.
Starting July 1, Walmart customers will have to be 21 years old to buy tobacco products at any Walmart or Sam’s Club in the U.S. The company is also discontinuing sales of fruit or dessert-flavored nicotine products, most often found in e-cigarette and other vaping devices.
This follows an increased national scrutiny over underage tobacco use. On April 5, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent letters to 15 corporations, including Walmart, stating that they have shown high rates of illegal sales of tobacco products to underage customers. In its letter to Walmart, the FDA charged that more than 15 percent of Walmart stores inspected sold tobacco products to minors. Overall, Walmart had a violation rate of approximately 17 percent.
In response, Walmart chose to change its corporate policy.
“Even a single sale to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard,” said John Scudder, chief compliance and ethics officer for Walmart, in a statement.
Late last year, the National Institute for Drug Abuse found that nearly 21 percent of high school seniors had vaped a nicotine product with in the past 30 days, which was up 11 percent from 2017. Since then, the FDA started cracking down on underage tobacco use, especially targeting e-cigarettes and vaping devices.
The Texas Legislature is also considering a bill that would raise the legal buying age from 18 to 21, with the exception of active military members. It passed the Senate last month, and the measure also has the support of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
“Increasing the age to purchase tobacco products in Texas to 21 will not only improve public health and save countless lives, it will save Texans billions of dollars in health care costs,” Patrick said in a statement to the Texas Tribune.