Press Room

Walgreens and Rite Aid Make Good Public Health Move on Raising Age to Purchase Tobacco, but More Is Needed

ARLINGTON, VA (April 29, 2019)— Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), issued the following statement after Walgreens and Rite Aid announced plans to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 in drugstores across the country.

“Limiting tobacco sales to those 21 and older is an important step in the right direction for national drugstore chains. ASTHO strongly urges these companies to now explore additional steps they can take, such as prohibiting sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States and is a major contributor to high rates of premature birth. Worse yet, because of Big Tobacco’s shameless marketing and sales strategies, rates of use are highest in low-income neighborhoods and among people with substance use disorders and those experiencing other behavioral health challenges. It is critical that we work collaboratively with industry leaders, government officials, and the public to prevent anyone from becoming addicted to tobacco in the first place, with a special focus on youth. We need to ensure that every single person in every community has an equal opportunity to breathe free and thrive."


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.