Retailer compliance with the new federal minimum age law is critically important in preventing anyone under 21 from accessing tobacco, including e-vapor products. 

Our tobacco companies sell their products to wholesalers, who in turn, sell to retailers and other wholesalers. Altria Group Distribution Company (AGDC) provides the sales and distribution services for our tobacco companies. Wholesalers and retailers, also known as our "trade partners," play critical roles in our product distribution network. AGDC calls on nearly 210,000 retailers across the country, representing approximately 92 percent of tobacco industry volume.

Our goal is to enhance trade partner participation in underage access prevention programs to establish retail and future sales channels as the most trusted place to responsibly sell and distribute tobacco products.

AGDC works with our trade partners to execute our retail trade programs, which are built on effective category management principles, and help retailers responsibly manage their tobacco category. Our retail trade program includes features that go beyond federal law to help prevent underage access to tobacco products, such as store clerk training and underage access prevention signage. In addition, we've developed rigorous compliance and training systems to govern retail marketing materials. In some tobacco categories, we also offer financial incentives to retailers who refrain from placing any tobacco products on top of or below the front of the selling counter.

Age Validation Technology

In 2019, AGDC announced a new retailer incentive program to further encourage responsible retailing through age validation technology at the point of purchase. In the second half of 2020, AGDC completed the first assessment of the Age Validation technology program.

To participate in the incentive program, retailers must implement a technological solution that requires an electronic scan of a consumer’s government-issued identification (e.g., driver’s license) to purchase any tobacco product.

In 2020, the program was validated in approximately 65,000 stores, representing 47 percent of Philip Morris USA volume and 58 percent of e-vapor category volume.
Currently, 95 percent of the retailers supported by AGDC – over 199,000 stores – are contractually obligated to fulfill these requirements as part of one or more of our companies’ retail trade programs. In addition to We Card signage requirements in our retail contracts, we are founding sponsors of the We Card organization, which provides retailer training and resources to help prevent underage access. Retailers participating in our trade programs and their employees can access free We Card 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.

alex mcgurie

Widespread Adoption of Age Validation Technology at Retail

By providing hardware and tech support, we are making age validation technology more accessible to many small chains and mom-and-pop stores.

Retailer Violation Rates

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