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May 08, 2019

Walmart will no longer sell tobacco to people under age 21

New policy also extends to Sam's Club locations

Walmart is raising the minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco at its stores.

Beginning July 1, customers must be at least 21 years old to purchase tobacco at Walmart or Sam's Club locations. The retailer also will no longer sell fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic cigarettes.

Walmart announced the changes Wednesday in a letter sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Earlier this year, the FDA put Walmart and 14 other retailers on notice for allegedly selling tobacco products to minors more than 15 percent of the time during FDA inspections since 2010.

John Scudder, Walmart's U.S. chief ethics & compliance officer, touted the changes as evidence of the company's commitment to mitigate tobacco use among minors.

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

Still, Scudder refuted the compliance records cited by the FDA.

The FDA has conducted some 12,800 compliance checks involving minors at Walmart and Sam's Club locations, Scudder said. The two retail outlets respectively passed 93 percent and 99 percent of those checks.

Beginning last month, Scudder said, any Walmart cashiers who fail secret-shopper checks will be subjected to disciplinary action, including possible termination. Previously, that protocol only existed for failed FDA regulatory checks.

Additionally, Walmart plans to upgrade its age-verification training by using virtual reality technology, Scudder said. That will enable employees to experience various scenarios and learn how to respond to minors looking to purchase tobacco.

Current law prevents the sale of tobacco products to anyone less than 18 years old.

Walgreens, another company called out by the FDA, previously announced it will only sell tobacco products to customers age 21 and older beginning Sept. 1.

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