Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., facing criticism for selling tobacco products to minors, said it will lift the age for purchasing cigarettes and vaping devices to 21 in its more than 9,500 drugstores.
The move comes amid a surge in youth vaping that has alarmed public health officials. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he wants Congress to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products, including nicotine vaping devices, to 21 from 18 nationwide. Some states have already done so.
After the stock market closed on Tuesday, Rite Aid Corp. also said it would increase the age required to purchase tobacco products to 21 at its stores, effective within 90 days. The pharmacy chain had previously announced it will remove e-cigarettes and vaping products from its shelves.
Walgreens has been under particular pressure since February, when the Food and Drug Administration called it the “top violator” among pharmacy chains for selling tobacco products to minors. The chain has received more than 1,550 warning letters from the FDA and has been hit with 240 financial penalties since 2010, an agency spokesman said at the time. Its largest competitor, CVS Health Corp., stopped selling cigarettes and vaping devices in 2014.
“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,” Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations, said in a statement Tuesday.