Walmart Changes Up Tobacco Sales Policy

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Walmart Changes Up Tobacco Sales Policy

05/10/2019
A Walmart location
Walmart is removing flavored vapor products from its shelves and increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Another national retailer will stop selling tobacco products to consumers under 21.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 8, Walmart outlined two key measures in support of the agency's efforts to keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors.

On July 1, the retailer's U.S. business — comprised of Walmart and Sam's Club locations — will raise the minimum age to purchase all tobacco products to 21. In addition, Walmart is in the process of discontinuing the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic cigarettes and vapor products.

"There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how companies restrict the sales of tobacco to minors. Recently, we received a letter from the Food and Drug Administration about the policies we have in place to prevent the sale of tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems to anyone under age," said John Scudder, U.S. chief compliance and ethics officer, Walmart Inc.

"While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our company-wide goal of 100-percent compliance. Even a single sale to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard," he added.

In Walmart's letter to Norman Sharpless, acting commissioner of the FDA, Scudder noted that the agency has conducted approximately 12,800 retailer compliance checks involving minors at Walmart stores and Sam's Club locations. Of those checks, Walmart and Sam's Club passed 93 percent and 99 percent, respectively.

In 2018, Walmart passed 94 percent of the more than 2,400 FDA checks and Sam's Club passed 100 percent of 15 FDA checks, he added.

In addition to the two major policy changes, Walmart will also upgrade its age-verification training through use of virtual-reality technology. Scudder said.

The moves by Bentonville-based Walmart follow on the heels of similar decisions by Rite-Aid and Walgreens. Both retail chains are increasing the minimum age to buy tobacco products. The change goes into effect Sept. 1 at Walgreens and in mid-July at Rite Aid stores, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

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