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Walmart discontinues flavored vapes; raises legal age on tobacco to 21

The Walmart Corporation has announced that it is raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 while promising to stop selling flavored vaping products altogether.  The move will officially take place July 1, 2019 and will also affect its subsidiary chain of Sam’s Stores nationwide.

Walmart, the world’s largest retail company based on revenue, is initiating the bold move after receiving a letter by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on April 5.  According to the letter, several stores throughout the country have been caught in violation of federal regulations prohibiting the sales of tobacco and vapor products to minors.  Rather than fight the possible financial penalties, Walmart seems to be caving to the political pressure instead. 

To be fair, that pressure has been mounting in recent weeks as lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been consistently demanding harsher regulatory actions by both FDA officials and vendors alike.  Since early 2018, former FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb is been issuing numerous public statements and written press announcements claiming that teenage vaping rates in the United States are reaching “epidemic” proportions.

Gottlieb’s replacement, Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, has expressed a similar viewpoint on teen vaping as his predecessor.   Meanwhile, little has been said of the rapidly plummeting smoking rates across all demographics that are well-documented to have occurred over the same timeframes.

The FDA’s fear-mongering tactics seem to be paying off because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is recently backing a proposed federal bill that would increase the purchasing age for tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21, as well.  If McConnell gets his way, then teen vaping will become a federal crime. Perhaps Walmart executives are seeing the proverbial writing on the wall. 

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

Several states like California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maine, and Virginia have already implemented over 21 legislation on tobacco and vaping purchases with more expected to pass similar regulations in the coming months.  And for those state which refuse to conform to this apparent new normal, the chances of McConnell’s bill being approved by both houses of congress in a bipartisan manner seem rather high, according to many political insiders.    

Related Article:  The McConnel Bill: Making teen vaping a federal crime

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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