FDA Issues First Warnings in War in Illegal Tobacco Sales

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters for the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors after a three-month investigation in Mississippi. The 25 warnings are the first of their kind under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The FDA’s State Enforcement Program kicked off this past summer, with Mississippi being the first state to participate. The program goal is to help enforce the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act and implement regulations. A list of retail establishments found to be in violation of the law, as well as those which have been inspected and where no violations were observed, can now be found on the FDA’s Web site. In total, 15 states have been awarded contracts to carry out inspections, according to the agency.

"The goal of the State Enforcement Program is to improve public health through effective tobacco product regulation," said Ann Simoneau, director of compliance and enforcement, Center for Tobacco Products, FDA.

The FDA plans to award enforcement contracts to all states and U.S. territories during fiscal year 2011-2012. During these compliance check inspections, officials are looking for whether the retailers comply with various aspects of the law, including whether the retailer sells a tobacco product to a minor; asks for proper identification; sells prohibited flavored cigarettes or individual cigarettes; and has self-service displays, like vending machines, which can be accessed by minors.

"Mississippi takes the health risks of smoking very seriously," said Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood. "Our inspectors are out in the field every day, doing their part to prevent youth access to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products."

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