Michigan hopes to follow suit after stores raise age of tobacco sales

Published: Apr. 24, 2019 at 6:21 PM EDT
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(04/24/19) - As vaping soars through high schools across the country, local and state governments are seeking a response.

In the meantime, private businesses are making an effort of their own.

Businesses like Rite Aid and Walgreens are already making a push to protect our youth. They both announced they'll be raising the age of tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years old. This will make it more difficult for minors to access tobacco.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of high school students using tobacco products increased by 38 percent in 2018. The reason, they say, is e-cigarettes.

Rite Aid's Chief Operating Officer, Bryan Everett said, "Raising the age for purchasing tobacco products is an important step in our efforts to ensure that these products do not fall into the hands of children and teens."

Similarly, Walgreens president of operations, Richard Ashworth said, "We've seen positive results from other recent efforts to strengthen our policies related to tobacco sales and We believe this next step can be even more impact to reduce its use among teens and young adults."

Today, lawmakers in Michigan's capital are being pushed to do the same. Over 130 volunteers are seeking their support for a policy making the entire state raise its age of sale. To start, they'll first need to define e-cigarettes as tobacco.

"Michigan is the only state that does not provide any definition for electronic cigarettes," Andrew Schepers said. Schepers is the Michigan Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

The effort to raise the age of sale is called Tobacco 21, or T-21, for short.

"We'd have a healthier population. We'd have less in terms of cost to have to treat that whether it's through Medicaid or folks have to pay hard premiums through insurance," Schepers said.

Heather Hall is a three-time cancer survivor. She says through her ongoing battle, she takes ownership of protecting our children.

"I know we're sometimes told that it's just water and flavoring and they make them in fancy flavors such as chocolate and fruit punch and everything, but it's still a tobacco product. It still can cause cancer," Hall said.

She says it's great that Rite Aid and Walgreens are on board, but there's still more to be done.

"Taking it back to this e-cigarette regulation and working with our representative and working it into a bill to have the comprehensive protection for our youth and Michigan residents is critical," Hall said.

Rite Aid will implement its policy within 90 days and Walgreens plans for September 1.