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How Old Do You Need to Be to Buy Condoms?

There is No Age Limit Required to Buy Condoms

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Close up of colorful condoms
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There is no age requirement for buying condoms. However, some stores independently choose not to sell condoms to teens.

Deciding to use condoms is one of the best ways teens can protect themselves against pregnancy and infections. But some teens have a tough time actually getting condoms!

Condoms are available at drugstores. They may be in the family planning section, or they could be tucked away behind the counter. You might find it embarrassing to ask for condoms, but try to remind yourself that any awkwardness is a lot less uncomfortable than an STD or unplanned pregnancy!

No one needs a prescription for condoms, and there is no age requirement for buying them. Additionally, you do not need to show ID for them.

Yet teens across the United States report being asked to prove they are over a certain age before buying condoms.

This teens says:

"I was at Walgreen's today and I was buying some condoms (for specific and private reasons), and at the checkout the clerk who was a male asked me for my ID when he scanned the condoms and not the other items. I am sixteen, and I showed him my ID, and he said "Sorry, but I am afraid you cannot buy these. You have to be eighteen or older." I told him that there is no age limit and he just laughs and scoffs at me. And he says, "Kid listen, I can get into a whole load of trouble if I sell these to a minor, such as yourself!"

Now it might be true that this guy's boss might have been upset with him, but the clerk could not have gotten into any legal trouble.

One of the reasons for that is because minors’ access to condoms are legally protected by something called Title X.

The Guide to Women's Issues explains more about Title X. She writes:

"Signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970 and enacted under the Public Health Service Act, the Title X Family Planning program is a federal grant program that provides comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Designed for low-income families, Title X gives priority to these individuals with services that promote positive birth outcomes, ensure healthy families, and assist women in determining the number and spacing of their children."

Title X protects minors ability to confidentially access contraceptive services with out their parents being notified or requiring parental consent.

If a teen is carded for condoms there are a few things that can be done.

  • Explain to the cashier and/or manager that it is legal for teens to buy condoms and requiring ID is not standard practice.
  • Write a letter to the store manager or owner.
  • Ask your parent, teacher, or clinician to file a complaint with the store.
  • Write a letter to your local legislator.
  • Let the store manager or owner know that you will take your business elsewhere.

Of course, doing any of those things might seem really scary or just won't be possible (say if you haven't shared the fact that you need condoms with your parents).

Luckily, there are a few other ways to get condoms. Sometimes your school guidance counsellor or school nurse will provide condoms. Sometimes your family doctor or a local health clinic will have condoms. Some local departments of health provide free condoms and some teens order condoms online.

Using condoms is a crucial way for teens to stay safe. Hopefully, simply getting them won't be too much of a barrier!

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