Walgreens, Rite Aid will no longer sell tobacco to people younger than 21

Walgreens Boots Alliance and Rite Aid on Tuesday separately announced that the companies will no longer sell tobacco products to individuals younger than 21.

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Walgreens said its new policy will take effect in its stores Sept. 1. Richard Ashworth, Walgreens' president of operations, in a statement said, "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."

Rite Aid said its stores will begin enforcing the new policy within 90 days, which will come at the same time the company will stop selling e-cigarettes and other vaping products in its stores. Bryan Everett, Rite Aid's COO, in a statement said, "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."

Announcements come amid increased focus on youth tobacco use

The announcements come amid increased focus on combatting youth tobacco use, which has surged in recent years in large part because of rising e-cigarette use among teens.

FDA in February asked a federal judge to temporarily prohibit a Walgreens store in Miami and a Circle K store in South Carolina from selling certain tobacco products, after the stores were cited for more than five violations over 36 months for selling tobacco products to minors. FDA said it had sent thousands of warning letters and hundreds of fines to Circle K and Walgreens before seeking to block their tobacco sales.

Further, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week said he will introduce a bill to increase the minimum age at which U.S. residents can purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. McConnell said the legislation will be a "top priority" when the Senate returns from recess this month. He said he plans to introduce the bill in May and will move to fast-track the measure.

So far, 12 states and 450 localities already have raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 (Maddipatla/Babu, Reuters, 4/23; Al-Muslim, Wall Street Journal, 4/23; Hellmann [1], The Hill, 4/23; Hellmann, The Hill, 4/23).

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