Walmart to raise tobacco purchase minimum age to 21

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 139 views 

Photo credit: Irina Iriser

Walmart joins the ranks of Walgreens and Rite Aid to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products in its stores to 21. The retail giant made the announcement this week in a blog on its website. Walmart said the minimum-age requirement will become effective July, 1 across all of its stores in the U.S. including Sam’s Club.

The retailer said it will also discontinue the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems in an effort to increase compliance.

Last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threatened to fine Walmart, Family Dollar, Kroger and several convenience store chains for illegally selling tobacco products to minors. The FDA said Walmart had a violation rate of about 17%.

In a letter to the FDA on Wednesday (May 8) Walmart attempted to correct the record on the number of sales to minors.

“Since 2010 the FDA has conducted approximately 12,800 retailer compliance checks involving minors at Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs. Over that period Walmart passed with 93% and Sam’s Club passed 99% of the checks. Last year Walmart passed 94% of the checks and Sam’s Club passed 100%,” the letter noted.

John Scudder, Walmart’s U.S. chief ethics and compliance officer, noted in the blog the retailer is not satisfied with anything less than passing 100% of the checks. He said Walmart is taking a number of corrective steps such as more stringent penalties for stores that fail the checks, increased training and other controls and processes to enhance the company’s compliance rates.

“We unequivocally acknowledge that even a single sale of tobacco product to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard,” Scudder noted in the letter to the FDA