Kids should not smoke, vape 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.

Today, underage use of conventional tobacco products is at the lowest levels in a generation. In fact, the latest Monitoring the Future study estimates youth smoking rates to be 4.2 percent in 2020, an 85 percent reduction from its 1997 peak. Retailer compliance rates with legal age of purchase laws have risen over the past 20+ years and, today, the compliance rates hover around 90 percent. And FDA regulation covers nearly every aspect of how tobacco products are manufactured, marketed and sold.

Youth use of e-vapor continued to rise in 2019, and this trend threatens to undermine the hard-fought gains made in preventing underage use of conventional tobacco products. Although we began to see a decrease in 2020, Tobacco manufacturers, regulators and policy-makers must act collaboratively and with urgency to do more to reverse this trend.

Altria is committed to being part of the solution. In addition to our long-standing efforts, we supported legislation to raise the minimum age for all tobacco products to 21. We believe this is the most effective step available to reverse rising underage e-vapor rates. 

Data shows that youth under 18 get tobacco products – including e-vapor – primarily through social sources, like friends or siblings who are 18 or older. Approximately 80 percent of high school students in the U.S. turn 18 years old before they graduate. By raising the minimum age to 21, no high school student should be able to purchase tobacco products legally. In December 2019, federal legislation raised the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21, making it the law of the land.

To address the youth vaping epidemic, preserve the opportunity for adult tobacco harm reduction and ensure youth use of traditional tobacco products remains at generational lows and continues to decline, in February 2019 we announced our plan to spend an incremental $100 million toward underage tobacco prevention. 

A Broader Vision of Success

To lead the industry in preventing underage use of products intended for adults 21 and over while contributing to the healthy development of youth ages 12-18.

Jennifer Hunter Photo

Jennifer Hunter

Senior Vice President Corporate Citizenship, Altria Client Services

"Today, youth use of all traditional tobacco products is lower than it’s been since the government started tracking. This kind of progress takes a village – parents and caring adults, policymakers and regulators, public health experts, positive youth development organizations and manufacturers. And I am incredibly proud of Altria’s contributions over the past two decades."

Deepening Our Commitment

For more than two decades, Altria's tobacco companies have made significant investments to prevent kids from using tobacco, guided by our Standards for Underage Tobacco Prevention and underage tobacco prevention framework. These efforts include:

  • supporting programs and organizations that positively influence kids and their decision not to engage in risky behaviors like tobacco use;
  • providing parents with tools to help them raise kids who don't use tobacco;
  • 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.


Our underage tobacco prevention framework has served as an important anchor for how we contribute to reducing underage use rates of tobacco products. As we approached the challenge of helping reduce youth e-vapor use, and preventing use of other novel or traditional tobacco products, a cross-functional team examined existing activities inside of our framework and identified specific opportunities to deepen our efforts across:


  • foundational research;
  • policy advocacy and regulatory engagement;
  • underage access prevention, including supporting responsible retailing and addressing social source access; and
  • positive youth development, through our Success 360° grant portfolio.


Underage Access Prevention

Deterring underage access is a principle at the core of Altria's operating companies' retail trade program. With the new federal minimum age law, retailer compliance will be critically important in preventing anyone under legal age from being able to access tobacco, including e-vapor products. Through the Altria Group Distribution Company (AGDC), we call on nearly 210,000 retailers across the country. Our goal is to deepen our trade partners' commitment to underage access prevention so that retail remains the most trusted place to responsibly sell tobacco products.

Retailer Violation Rates

Learn more about state and national retailer violation rates and the Synar Program.

Since October 2019, AGDC has also been implementing a responsible retail program to further incentivize retailers' use of age validation technology at the point of purchase. Participating retailers install a technological solution at a store's point(s) of purchase, requiring the electronic scan of a consumer's government-issued identification (e.g., driver's license) to complete a sales transaction involving the purchase of any tobacco product. In 2020, 65,000 stores participated in the incentive program, representing 47 percent of Philip Morris USA cigarette volume and 58 percent of e-vapor category volume. AGDC continues to promote the program and recruit new retailer participation with an aim to increase participating stores to 120,000.

For more than two decades, Altria's tobacco companies have invested significantly in trade programs, retailer training and legislative efforts that help prevent underage access to tobacco products. Our companies' retail programs also include 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 CardTM or equivalent signs in their stores, and placing signs reminding adults to not buy tobacco products for people under the legal age of purchase. 

AGDC employees use image recognition technology to validate compliance with signage requirements on every visit to the store, and support retailers by replacing damaged or faded signage as needed throughout the year. 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 training through our retail trade website. With our support, We Card  has trained hundreds of thousands of retail employees and distributed millions of education and training materials.

We are working with these retailers to support enforcement of Tobacco 21 laws and providing "Move to 21" kits including updated We Card signage and training resources in all states.

Positive Youth Development

As we take additional steps to reduce youth vaping, addressing underage use of traditional tobacco products remains our priority. The most important way we can make sure kids don't use any tobacco products is to limit access and appeal. That's why we’ll continue to be guided by positive youth development theory, which 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.

Success360 logo

With 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 ths 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. Collectively, our partners reach more than 17 million kids with a range of programs, including mentoring, proven effective adolescent substance abuse prevention and tobacco cessation programs.

In 2020, Altria's tobacco companies provided a combined ~$25 million for Altria's core Success360° initiative.

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Contributing to Underage Prevention through Research-Driven Insights

We analyze national data sets and conduct our own research to help us better understand issues related to underage tobacco use.
Logan Son Photo

Collaborating for Retail Access Prevention Solutions

Our primary goals are to raise awareness around social source access and drive new retailer behaviors to continue to limit youth access to tobacco products at retail.
Amber Roos

The Evolution of Our Underage Tobacco Prevention Grant Portfolio

Amber shares the ways Success360° aids in underage tobacco prevention through targeted grants and support of key nonprofits.

 *For e-cigarettes, 2017 and prior years are not comparable due to methodological changes.

Note: Any tobacco product use is past 30-day use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, hookahs, pipe tobacco, and/or bidis on ≥1 day in the past 30 days.
Note: For smokeless tobacco, 2015 and prior years data are not comparable due to methodological changes into 2015. In 2015  smokeless tobacco includes chewing tobacco/snuff/dip, snus, and dissolvable tobacco because of limited sample sizes. Prior to 2015, smokeless tobacco included only chewing tobacco/snuff/dip.
Note: In 2014 and 2015, modifications were made to the e-cigarette measure to enhance its accuracy, which may limit the comparability of these estimates to those collected in previous years. The dotted lines from 2013 to 2018 represent these differences.


4Source:  ALCS analysis of FDA PATH Wave 4 Study (Oct 2016 – Oct 2018) Youth 12-17
Note: Each bar represents responses given by past 30-day users of the listed tobacco product and shows the percentages reporting each method as their usual method to  access that tobacco product.