Walmart raising age to buy tobacco

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On July 1 all Walmart and Sam’s Club stores across the country will raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, including the Walmart in Sealy.

Walmart Manager Aisha Sadiku confirmed that the Sealy store will be changing the age in compliance with the new company policy. Active members of the military can still purchase tobacco products at age 18 as long as they have their ID with them.

According to published reports, the move is a response to a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration admonishing the company for selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors.

“There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how companies restrict the sales of tobacco to minors,” John Scudder, U.S. chief compliance and ethics officer for Walmart, told the Dallas Morning News. “While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our company-wide goal of 100% compliance.”

The FDA has threatened to take action against several retailers who routinely violate the law by selling tobacco products to minors.

“These illegal sales must stop,” the FDA said in its letter to Walmart. “Violating the law ... and paying associated fines and penalties should not simply be viewed as a cost of doing business.”

The list of tobacco products includes e-cigarettes. The company will discontinue the sale of fruit and dessert nicotine flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products.

The move by Walmart in Texas may also be preemptive, as the state Legislature is poised to pass a law raising the age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21, excluding active military. The Senate has already approved a bill and the House has a similar one pending. Lawmakers are considering a state retail excise tax of 10 percent on e-cigarette and vape tobacco products.

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