Walgreens store

FILE: A Walgreens store is seen on April 02, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Walgreens To Raise Tobacco Buying Age To 21

April 23, 2019 - 12:26 pm

(WWJ) Walgreens will soon no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products to customers under 21.

Announcing the policy change on Tuesday, the drugstore chain said it's a step in an ongoing effort to further prevent youth access to tobacco. 

Effective Sept. 1, 2019, the policy will be in place in all of the company's more than  9,500 stores nationwide.

Walgreens says it's new "Tobacco 21" policy reinforces other recent steps the company has taken, including the implementation of a “Card All” policy chain-wide last October, which requires verification regardless of age on all tobacco sales in Walgreens stores.

“We’ve seen positive results from other recent efforts to strengthen our policies related to tobacco sales, and believe this next step can be even more impactful to reduce its use among teens and young adults,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations, in a news release “Through ongoing training and certification for pharmacists and technicians, we also continue to help and support people looking to quit the use of tobacco in their lives.”

The move comes under pressure from the Former Food and Drug Administration, which had called Walgreens a top violator of laws restricting access to cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and other products. FDA chief Scott Gottlieb said in March that inspectors had found more than 1,800 instances since 2010 in which one of the company's stores violated the law.

The company said its action aligns with the efforts of states and municipalities who have recently enacted, or are considering, laws to restrict tobacco sales to people 21 and older, which studies have shown can lead to a sharp decline in tobacco use among young adults. 

Meanwhile, a federal law is in the works. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just days ago announced he plans to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 nationally.

CVS Health, a competitor of Walgreens, stopped selling tobacco products at its stores back in 2014.