Walmart raises tobacco selling age to 21 after FDA crackdown

Walmart said Wednesday that it’s raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 in July, after the Food and Drug Administration threatened to fine the retailer last month for allegedly illegal sales of tobacco products to minors.

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In addition to raising the buying age, Walmart said it also plans to stop selling fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes.

The FDA sent Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger, 7-Eleven and several other companies a letter in early April, asking the retailers to submit a plan of action to mitigate illegal tobacco sales to minors, or else pay a fine.

In a letter addressed to Norman Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, Walmart’s Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer John Scudder laid out the company’s new policies, including strengthening the disciplinary action stemming from its failed secret-shopper check. Walmart will also upgrade its age-verification training through the use of virtual-reality technology.

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“We unequivocally acknowledge that even a single sale of a tobacco product to a minor is one too many,” Scudder wrote. “And we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard.”

Walgreens, which has received almost 1,800 violations since 2010 for selling tobacco products to minors, announced two weeks ago that it’s raising the buying age to 21 in September.