The Genesee County Board of Commissioners couldn’t make it happen two years ago, but it looks like the big national retailers are making their own policies on what age individuals should be to purchase tobacco products.
On April 23, Walgreens announced it would be implementing a new chain-wide policy that will require customers to be at least 21 years old in order to buy tobacco products in its stores.
Walgreens joins Rite-Aid and Walmart, which earlier this year raised the age to 21 to buy tobacco products. CVS stores ceased selling tobacco products altogether in 2014.
Walgreens’ new policy became effective Sunday, Sept. 1, and claim it is their most recent step in an ongoing effort to further prevent youth access to tobacco products, according to the retailer’s press release.
“We’ve seen positive results from other recent efforts to strengthen our policies related to tobacco sales, and believe this next step can be even more impactful to reduce its use among teens and young adults,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations. “Through ongoing training and certification for pharmacists and technicians, we also continue to help and support people looking to quit the use of tobacco in their lives.”
The company’s action also aligns with the efforts of states and
municipalities that have recently enacted, or are considering, laws to restrict tobacco sales to people 21 and older. Walgreens has supported such legislative proposals. Studies have shown cities that have enacted Tobacco 21 laws have seen a sharp decline in tobacco use among young adults 18-20 years old, according to the Walgreens officials.
Additionally, the company continues to focus efforts on promoting cessation products and services, and offers a comprehensive suite of digital information and support tools to patients who want to quit smoking.
Genesee County effort
On Monday, June 19, 2017, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Judith Fullerton ruled against “Tobacco 21.”
According to former County Commissioner Drew Shapiro (6th District), who was in the courtroom with RPF Oil, which filed a lawsuit on May 12, 2017, challenging the new county ordinance, the judge ruled against it because “it is unenforceable.”
Monday, May 15, 2017 was supposed to be the day that retailers in Genesee County would be forced to abide by the new Tobacco 21 ordinance, prohibiting anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products in the county.
But the lawsuit filed by RPF Oil Company in Grand Blanc challenged that ordinance. The lawsuit alleged that the regulation, adopted by the Genesee County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 14, 2017 is in direct conflict with the Age of Majority Act (MCL 722.51), and directly conflicts with the sign requirements of the Youth Tobacco Act (MCL 722.641(2).
“Judge Fullerton ruled in favor of the oil company and the attorney general,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said he has never argued against the fact that the use of tobacco products can result in some serious health issues. “This is about avoiding a lawsuit and saving taxpayer dollars on unwinnable lawsuits,” he said.