Helping Reduce Underage Tobacco Use

Kids should not smoke or use any tobacco products. It's a goal we share with public health, policy makers, parents, youth-serving organizations and many others who care about young people making healthy decisions.
As the nation's leading tobacco companies, we have an important role in reducing underage tobacco use.​
Over the past 20 years, we have funded a variety of programs​ to:
  • prevent underage access to tobacco products;
  • provide parents with tools to help them raise kids who don't use tobacco; and
  • support youth-serving organizations that prevent kids from using tobacco.
Since then, much has changed. For example:​
  • Underage cigarette smoking is at generational lows.
  • Tobacco retailers are more effective at keeping tobacco products out of kids' hands.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation covers nearly every aspect of how tobacco products are manufactured, marketed and sold.​
The FDA has the authority and resources to continue the progress that's been made and to address new, emerging issues associated with underage use.
While the FDA has an expanded role, our companies remain committed to positive youth development. Positive youth development theory teaches that emphasizing protective factors in kids' lives – such as positive relationships and activities – and reducing risk factors, helps kids make healthy decisions and resist a broad range of risky behaviors, including tobacco use.​
Altria's Standards for Underage Tobacco Prevention​​​​​ guide our tobacco companies' investment in programs to help reduce underage tobacco use. These efforts include:​
  • supporting programs and organizations that positively influence kids and their decision not to engage in risky behaviors like tobacco use;​
  • supporting trade programs, retailer training and legislative efforts that help prevent underage access to tobacco products; and
  • taking steps designed to limit reach of their brands and marketing materials to unintended audiences.​
Success 360​​°​
Success 360With a focus on middle school students, our Success360°​ initiative aims to promote the healthy development of kids and help them avoid risky behaviors like tobacco use.​
Through this initiative, Altria's tobacco companies invest in leading youth-serving organizations such as 4-H, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, Communities in Schools and The First Tee​. Success360° helps these organizations collaborate and better connect the services they provide to kids and their families in and out of the classroom​.
Through Success360°, we also support proven effective adolescent substance abuse prevention and tobacco cessation programs, including LifeSkills® Training, 4-H’s Health Rocks! program and RJ Caron’s Project CONNECT.​​

Underage Access Prevention at Retail​​​​
Our companies' retail programs include several requirements and financial incentives to help prevent underage access to tobacco ​products. The requirements include teaching store clerks how to check IDs and placing We Card® or equivalent signs in their stores. We also fund We Card, an organization that provides retailer training and resources to help prevent underage access. Retailers participating in our programs and their employees can access free We Card training through our retail trade website.​​
With our support, We Card has trained hundred of thousands of retail employees and distributed millions of education and training materials.
Our tobacco companies also support programs and legislative efforts to prevent underage access to tobacco products at retail.​
Understanding How Kids Get Tobacco Products​​
In the mid-1990's, the most common way kids obtained tobacco products was by buying them in a retail store. During that time, four out of 10 retailers failed to turn away underage purchasers. Since then, retailers have worked hard to limit underage access by implementing rigorous age verification programs like We Card. In fact, 90 percent of stores are upholding minimum age laws7.​
More work, remains. Government data shows social sources - like friends and siblings – continue to be the most frequent way kids get tobacco products8. That's why we require retailers participating in our companies’ trade programs to place signs reminding adults to not buy tobacco products for kids.​
Manufacturers and retailers cannot address this issue alone.
With federal regulation in place, the FDA has the opportunity to do more to address social source access and we encourage them to do so. In 2016, we engaged with the Office of Health Communications and Education at the Center for Tobacco Products on underage social access to tobacco products. We shared suggestions to address the issues, including an FDA led public education campaign dissuading adults from buying tobacco products for those underage. Doing so would complement the FDA’s current efforts to encourage kids to not use tobacco products. . ​