Walmart will raise to 21 the minimum age to buy tobacco products and e-cigarettes in its stores nationwide this summer.
The Associated Press reports that the world’s largest retailer also said it will also stop selling sweet-flavored e-cigarettes, which critics say can hook teenagers on vaping.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration put Walmart and 14 other retailers on notice for selling tobacco products to kids. Another retailer on the list, Walgreens, said last month that it would increase its minimum age for tobacco sales to 21.
Walmart has told the FDA that it will be testing its own employees and retraining those caught selling tobacco to minors.
We congratulate Walmart and Walgreens for their choices and the FDA for pushing the companies. It is a legitimate use of government pressure to make sure children don’t have access to addictive drugs. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in America. The older people are when they first use tobacco, the less likely they will become addicted.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma, House Bill 1432, which would have raised the minimum age for tobacco purchases at all Oklahoma retailers, went exactly nowhere in the Legislature. It remains alive for legislative consideration next year.
State legislators have shown even less interest in an even more potentially effective policy to discourage youth smoking: taxing vaping products at the same rate as cigarettes. Cigarettes are subject to the comparatively heavy tobacco tax, while vaping is only subject to ordinary sales tax.
Both ideas deserve, at the minimum, a committee hearing so we can hear their opponents explain why they want to allow young people to have affordable access to addictive drugs.
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