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Walgreens and Rite Aid raising age to buy tobacco products

Two of the nation’s largest drugstore chains are limiting the sales of tobacco products in their stores.

On Tuesday morning, Walgreens announced a chainwide move increasing the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, effective Sept. 1. Later the same afternoon, Rite Aid made a similar move, with the requirement going into effect across all Rite Aid stores within 90 days.

“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. “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.”

Bryan Everett, COO of Rite Aid, said the chain’s decision is directly related to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that shows over 80% of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before they turned 18, and nearly 95% started before age 21.

“By raising the purchase age, we are furthering our commitment to promoting responsible access to tobacco products,” he said.

Walgreens’ and Rite’s Aid’s moves come amid a crackdown this year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on retailers for selling tobacco products to young people, and also align with the efforts of states and municipalities who have recently enacted, or are considering, laws to restrict tobacco sales to people 21 and older. Last week, U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products, including vaping devices, to 21 from 18.

Rite Aid previously announced that it will remove e-cigarettes and vaping products chainwide. Walgreens’ new tobacco 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.
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