A recent push to raise the minimum tobacco purchasing age to 21 has urged 10 states to pass laws…and now retailer Walmart will do so.
The company announced May 8 it would raise its minimum tobacco purchasing age to 21. By July 1, all Walmart and Sam’s Clubs locations will implement this new regulation. This includes e-cigarette devices as well as traditional combustible cigarettes. Walmart is also discontinuing the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine devices.
John Scudder, U.S. chief compliance and ethics officer at Walmart, Inc., said there has been a lot of discussion about how companies restrict the sale of tobacco to minors.
“Recently, we received a letter from the Food and Drug Administration about the policies we have in place to prevent the sale of tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems to anyone under age,” Scudder said. “While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our company-wide goal of 100 percent compliance. Even a single sale to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard. So today, we sent a letter back to the FDA outlining additional measures we’re taking to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors.”
According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, if the tobacco purchasing age was increased to 21, tobacco use would decline by 12 percent among teenagers.
“Nearly all tobacco users start before age 21,” according to the Minnesota Department of Health. “According to a 2017 Minnesota Department of Health advisory on nicotine, teens are especially susceptible to nicotine addiction and the harmful effects of nicotine on the developing brain. Raising the minimum tobacco sale age to 21 would limit youth access to tobacco until age 21, when the portion of the brain responsible for rational decision-making is more fully developed.”
According to the Washington Post, the FDA threatened fines to dozens of large retailers such as Walmart, Kroger, Family Dollar and others for illegally selling tobacco products to minors. “The agency said its inspections found 17 percent of Walmart stores had sold tobacco to minors since 2010. (By comparison, 7-Eleven had a violation rate of 25 percent, compared with 41 percent at Marathon Petroleum.),” The Washington Post reported.
Scudder wrote in a letter May 8 that Walmart unequivocally acknowledges that even a single sale of a tobacco product to a minor is one too many, and the company takes seriously its responsibilities in this regard.
“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 — and view not as a cost of doing business but as a breach of trust with the customers and communities we serve,” Scudder wrote. “Our sincere intent and hope are that the changes outlined in this letter will have a substantial public health impact by helping to keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors.”
Sources: corporate.walmart.com, news.walmart.com, Washington Post