April 23 (UPI) -- Walgreens Boots Alliance on Tuesday raised its minimum age to buy tobacco to 21, starting Sept. 1, in a move to curb youth smoking.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been pressuring retailers to do more to keep young people from getting their hands on tobacco products. Pharmacy company CVS stopped selling tobacco products altogether in 2014.
"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," Richard Ashworth, Walgreens operations president, said in a statement.
"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," he continued.
The federal legal age to buy tobacco products is 18, but several states have increased the minimum to 21. The legal age to purchase tobacco products in Britain, where Boots is headquartered, is 21.
The FDA started enforcement action against several Walgreens and Circle K store locations in February, they say for repeatedly violating restrictions on sales of tobacco products. The agency called Walgreens the top violator among pharmacies that sells products to minors.
"I'm also deeply disturbed that a single pharmacy chain racked up almost 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to minors across the country," then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said of Walgreens in February.
Walgreens started a "card all" policy in October in which all buyers must show proof of age to buy tobacco products.