Bad news for Breakfast Club rebels everywhere: Walgreens is raising the age to buy tobacco in their stores from 18, the federal legal age, to 21. This move will take effect on Sep. 1, 2019, and comes amidst a growing movement towards stricter restrictions on smoking and vaping. Rite Aid will follow suit in the new restrictions.
The announcement comes while politicians in both the United Kingdom and the United States are pushing to raise the minimum age. Currently, 18 is the legal age to purchase tobacco in both countries. In the U.K., the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health recently recommended the change in pursuit of a “smoke-free generation.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also backing legislation that would do the same in the States. He previewed the bill a week ago, and plans to introduce it in May.
“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children,” McConnell said in a statement. “In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country.”
McConnell’s legislation would federalize a movement that has spread slowly across various municipalities, counties, and states. At present, the legal age to purchase tobacco has been raised to 21 in 12 states: Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington. Additionally, dozens of counties and communities have raised their restrictions as well.
Walgreens’ decision comes both in light of this and as the result of a recent controversy which landed them in hot water after an FDA investigation found them culpable for selling tobacco products to minors. Initially, Walgreens responded by changing their policy to card every tobacco customer, but this new decision goes even further.
Of course, all of this comes at a time when vaping is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to cigarette smoking in the United States. These new restrictions will affect both vaping and traditional tobacco use.
The impact of this legislation on the potential legalization of cannabis is another matter entirely. Public sentiment toward cannabis has grown more positive in recent years, and it’s possible that the debate surrounding cannabis will continue to move toward legalization. But increased restriction on tobacco use can hardly be seen as a good thing for the cannabis industry.