uNEW YORK (AP) — Walmart said Wednesday that it will raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products and e-cigarettes at its U.S. stores to 21 amid growing pressure from regulators to cut tobacco sales and use among minors.
The world’s largest retailer also said it will also stop selling fruit and dessert flavored e-cigarettes, which critics say can hook teenagers on vaping.
The new rules will take effect in July at all its 5,300 U.S. stores, including its Sam’s Club warehouse locations. Previously, Walmart’s minimum purchase age was 18, aside from a number of states where the legal age is 21.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration put Walmart and 14 other retailers on notice for selling tobacco products to kids. Another retailer on the list, drugstore operator Walgreens, said last month that it would increase its minimum age for tobacco sales to 21 in September.
In a letter to the FDA Wednesday, Walmart said it will conduct its own tests this year to make sure minors can’t buy tobacco products at its stores. The company said it will retrain workers that fail its tests.
“Even a single sale to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard,” said John Scudder, Walmart’s chief compliance and ethics officer, in a blog post Wednesday.
uPENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL DROPS ‘GOD BLESS AMERICA’ AFTER PLEDGE: SPRINGFIELD, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania school principal will no longer say “God bless America” after leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Peter Brigg’s practice at Sabold Elementary School in Springfield led at least one parent to complain to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose attorney contacted the district. The group claimed it violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of government sponsoring religious messages.
The district decided to cease the practice after consulting with its lawyer. In a statement , the district says it is not prohibiting students from reciting “God bless America” after the pledge on their own.
The foundation says “young elementary school children don’t need to be coerced into affirming God’s name every morning.”
uDRIVER CHARGED IN CRASH; COUPLE DIED ON WAY TO THEIR WEDDING: HAMBURG, Pa. (AP) — A truck driver has been charged with vehicular homicide in a fiery crash last fall that killed a couple driving to their wedding in Pittsburgh.
State police say 24-year-old Jaspreet Singh Chahal, of Frenso, California, is also charged with reckless endangering and misdemeanors in the Nov. 14 crash on Interstate 78.
The Reading Eagle reports that police in Berks County allege he was distracted by a cellphone conversation and didn’t see traffic stopped ahead of him before striking another vehicle.
Killed were 35-year-old Kathryn Schurtz, of Jersey City, New Jersey, and her fiance, 42-year-old Joseph Kearney.
Court documents don’t list an attorney for Chahal. A message could not be left Wednesday at a phone listing for him.
uNEWBORN GIRL FOUND ALIVE IN TRASH BIN AFTER CRIES ARE HEARD: BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Florida sheriff’s deputies say a newborn girl has been found alive inside a trash bin.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says two people walking at an apartment complex near Boca Raton heard crying coming from the bin and found the baby Wednesday morning.
Spokeswoman Teri Barbera said the baby girl was taken to a hospital for evaluation and is expected to survive.
Further information was not immediately available.
Under Florida law, unwanted newborns can be dropped off anonymously at a hospital or fire station with no questions asked. The child is then placed up for adoption.
uSOUTH CAROLINA INMATES TO BE CHARGED FOR LIVESTREAMING: BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Department of Corrections says several inmates were able to livestream on Facebook using contraband cellphones inside their maximum security prison.
The agency tweeted Tuesday that the phones were confiscated, the inmates face unspecified charges and the agency is investigating how they got around a system that manages telecommunications inside the Lee Correctional Institution.
The State reports the prison began using the system after a deadly 2018 riot. It’s supposed to stop unapproved phones from connecting to the internet, placing calls and sending texts.
The agency tweeted that “This is one more reason we need to pass legislation to jam cell phone signals.” Jamming technology is currently banned under federal law.
uWOMAN CHARGED IN DEATH OF PUPPY FOUND SUBMERGED IN POND: WEST MILFORD, N.J. (AP) — A woman has been charged in the death of a 10-week-old puppy whose body was found submerged and in a weighted cage in a northern New Jersey pond.
Passaic County prosecutors say Tonya Fea faces animal cruelty charges. It wasn’t known if the 47-year-old Jefferson Township woman has retained an attorney.
The female golden retriever puppy was found April 30 in Greenwood Pond in West Milford. Authorities have not said what caused the dog’s death or how long the animal had been in the water before it was discovered.
uSEARCHERS FIND BODY OF TEEN WHO FELL THROUGH ICE IN FEBRUARY: EVART, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say they’ve found the body of a 15-year-old boy who fell through ice in February in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula.
The Osceola County sheriff’s department says the body of Dylan Shaw was found Tuesday about 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) down the Muskegon River from where he went missing.
Shaw, who lived in Evart, fell into the river in nearby Sylvan Township with two more teens Feb. 7, but he was the only one who didn’t get to shore. Earlier searches for the teen were unsuccessful amid poor weather conditions and high water.
Undersheriff John Keathley tells WPBN-TV the river was lower Tuesday, making conditions better for searching. He says he hopes the discovery of Shaw’s body “does bring closure to the family.”