Altria CEO Weighs In on Tobacco Minimum Age Debate

RICHMOND, Va. — The decision regarding whether the legal minimum buying age for tobacco products should be raised from 18 to 21 should lay in the hands of Congress, not individual municipalities, Marty Barrington, Altria Group Inc.’s chairman, president and CEO, stated Thursday during the company’s 2016 fiscal first-quarter earnings call.

Food and Drug Administration statutes under the Master Settlement Agreement should be enforced, the chief executive responded when questioned by a Wall Street analyst during Thursday's call. However, he stressed that the Richmond-based tobacco manufacturer, maker of such brands as Marlboro, supports a minimum smoking buying age, which “has always been 18.”

“States and localities, with all respect, are not observing [this] approach,” said Barrington. “We need an informed debate based upon science and evidence in Congress. That’s what we support.”

As CSNews Online has reported on several occasions, Hawaii became the first state to raise its legal tobacco buying age from 18 to 21, with California the next state poised to do so.

Many individual cities and towns have also taken this action, including New York City.

On the other side of the ledger, some states have rejected attempts to raise the legal tobacco buying age, including Colorado, Utah and Vermont. 

Altria Group Inc. is the parent company for Philip Morris USA, John Middleton, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., Nu Mark and Ste. Michele Wine Estates. Altria also holds a continuing economic and voting interest in SABMiller. The brand portfolios of Altria’s tobacco operating companies include Marlboro, Black & Mild, Copenhagen, Skoal, MarkTen and Green Smoke.

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