(Adds background on teenage tobacco use in the U.S.)
April 23 (Reuters) - Drugstore retailers Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Rite Aid Corp will no longer sell tobacco products to customers who are below 21 years old, amid a crackdown on widespread teenage tobacco use.
U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell last week disclosed plans to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products, including vaping devices, to 21 from 18..
McConnell's proposal comes as states and cities across the United States have moved to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco in an effort to prevent addiction at young ages.
So far 12 states have enacted laws to raise the minimum age to 21, including New Jersey and California. Lawmakers in New York state and Maryland have also approved legislation.
Walgreens, which announced the change earlier in the day, said the new policy will require customers to be at least 21 years old in order to purchase tobacco products in its stores and will be effective from September. The company operates 9,560 drugstores across the country and has been warned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for flouting tobacco sale rules by selling tobacco products to minors.
Preliminary federal data showed that teenage e-cigarettes use had surged by more than 75 percent since last year, which the FDA described as an "epidemic."
In November, the FDA proposed a ban on the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored electronic cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations. The FDA also proposed stricter age-verification requirements for online sales of e-cigarettes.
Rite Aid, which had previously announced it will remove e-cigarettes and vaping products chainwide, said the new policy would come into effect across all its stores within 90 days.
The company will continue to enforce its chainwide policy that requires identification to purchase age-restricted items, including tobacco products.
Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla and Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Sriraj Kalluvila