Walgreens and Rite Aid will no longer sell tobacco products to customers who are under 21 years old. Rite Aid will raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 within the next 90 days, while Walgreens will raise the age requirement starting Sept. 1.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Walgreens of possible sanctions for allegedly selling the products to minors.Approximately 22% of Walgreens locations inspected by the agency caught employees illegally selling tobacco products to minors, the FDA said.
Additionally, retailers have had to be more cautious about the sales of e-cigarettes, which have gained popularity among teens. Preliminary federal data showed that teenage e-cigarette use had surged by more than 75% since 2018, which the FDA described as an “epidemic.”
In November 2018, the FDA proposed a ban on the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations. The FDA also proposed stricter age verification requirements for e-cigarette sales online.
U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell last week disclosed plans to introduce federal legislation to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.A dozen states already have raised the minimum buying age, and a handful of others are exploring similar action.
Rite Aid recently announced it would remove e-cigarettes and vaping devices chainwide, while Walgreens has tested tobacco-free stores. However, neither company has committed entirely to removing tobacco products as a whole, as CVS Health did when it exited the tobacco category in October 2014.
Dropping tobacco products altogether can help pharmacies pivot toward a more health-conscious image, but a change would more than likely affect the bottom line — the total U.S. consumer tobacco market generates more than $100 billion in annual revenue. CVS estimated at the time that dropping cigarettes and associated products would cost the company $2 billion in annual revenue.