Two of the largest drugstore chains in the country have decided that they will no longer sell tobacco products to people under the age of 21. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (NASDAQ: WBA) announced it would raise the age requirement to buy tobacco products starting Sept. 1. Rite Aid Corp. (NYSE: RAD) made a similar announcement, saying that the new policy would take effect within the next 90 days. Number one drugstore chain CVS Health Corp. (NYSE: CVS) stopped selling tobacco products in 2014.
The announcement from Walgreens is part of a new policy dubbed Tobacco 21. In addition to requiring customers to be at least 21 years old in order to purchase any tobacco products, the company is also requiring identification for anyone purchasing tobacco products, regardless of their age. The move is a significant one as Walgreens is one of the largest drugstore chains in the United States, with nearly 10,000 stores.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration put the pharmacy “on notice” for allegedly selling the products to minors. The agency said Walgreens had the worst track record among all chains for selling tobacco to kids, with nearly 1,800 violations since 2010. In February, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb criticized the company in a press release for its repeated violations.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that most smokers start before they turn 18. According to a National Youth Tobacco Survey, roughly 4.9 million middle and high school students reported using a tobacco product last year. Rite Aid Chief Operating Officer Bryan Everett said in a statement, “Raising the age for purchasing tobacco products is an important step in our efforts to ensure that these products do not fall into the hands of children and teens.”
While U.S. federal law bans the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 years of age, twelve states and hundreds of American cities have already raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21. Delaware became the 12th state earlier this month. At least 450 metro areas, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., have also passed laws raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.