As of June 17, customers under the age of 21 will no longer be able to buy tobacco products at any Big Y World Class Market or supermarket, Fresh Acres Market, Table & Vine or Big Y Express Fuel & Convenience locations, as the New England grocer is raising the minimum age to buy any tobacco products in all 80 of its locations.
In compliance with Massachusetts state law, Big Y Foods Inc., based in Springfield, has already implemented the age requirement in all of its locations within its home state as of Jan. 1. Further, in Connecticut, where the company also operates stores, the state legislature is planning a similar requirement as of October 2019. Big Y upped its age requirement to purchase tobacco ahead of the Connecticut law so as to have a consistent policy for all of the stores in its operating area.
As part of the food retailer’s new tobacco policy, Big Y has re-emphasized its training programs to reinforce proper age verification through the use of electronic age validation systems, computerized training programs for all cashiers, and an easy reference calendar to verify that purchasers are at least 21, as well as signs in several key areas throughout each location.
“For years, we have been diligent in helping families keep cigarettes and tobacco products out of the hands of children,” noted Big Y CEO Charles L. D’Amour. “As responsible members of our community, this next step to raise the age to procure all tobacco products to 21 will further protect our families and youth from these products reaching the wrong consumer and end user.”
Currently, e-cigarettes and vaping products are sold only in Big Y’s convenience store division and not in any of the company’s supermarkets.
Walmart Inc. recently raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in its stores nationwide to 21 following a letter in April from the Food and Drug Administration threatening to fine the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer for illegally selling such products to minors.
As Progressive Grocer sister publication Convenience Store News reported, Texas has become the latest state to join the Tobacco 21 movement to legally raise the age at which tobacco can be legally purchased. The other states are Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. Illinois’ governor signed similar legislation last month, while the New York Senate passed legislation on April 1 that the governor is expected to sign, according to UPI.
CSN noted that the movement began to take hold at the state level when Hawaii became the first state to up the tobacco-buying age to 21 on Jan. 1, 2016.
One of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England. Big Y operates 70 supermarkets, Fresh Acres Market, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors, and nine Big Y Express gas and convenience locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut, with more than 11,000 employees. The company is No. 36 on PG’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States, while Walmart is No. 1 in the ranking.