Walgreens ups tobacco buying age to 21 amid FDA crackdown

By Personal FinanceFOXBusiness

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Walgreens announced Tuesday that it’s increasing its tobacco buying age to 21 in September after the Food and Drug Administration put the pharmacy "on notice" for having the worst track record among all chains for selling tobacco to kids.

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The new policy dubbed Tobacco 21 will require customers to be at least 21 years old in order to purchase any tobacco products in its stores.

US federal law bans the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 years of age but states can extend the ban.

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The company said the move is part of an “ongoing effort” to clean up its record after racking up almost 1,800 violations since 2010 for selling tobacco products to minors.

In February, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb criticized the company in a press release for its repeated violations, which included 22 percent of its more than 6,300 locations.

Gottlieb wrote that he was “deeply disturbed” about the findings and was particularly concerned about whether the “pharmacy setting” was influencing consumer and retailer perceptions around tobacco products in a way that’s contributing to the high numbers.

At the time of report, a Walgreens spokesperson told FOX Business that it was taking the matter “very seriously” and has already taken a number of steps to address the issues, including requiring identification for anyone purchasing tobacco products regardless of their age.

“In addition, we are training all of our store team members on the new requirements and strengthening disciplinary actions against store employees who violate the policy,” Walgreens said in February.

On Tuesday, Walgreens president of operations Richard Ashworth said in a press release that in addition to raising the age, it is also focusing on providing customers with tools and digital information to help them to quit smoking.

According to a National Youth Tobacco Survey, an estimated 4.9 million middle and high school students reported using a tobacco product last year.