FDA Warning Letters Issued to 1,200 Tobacco Retailers

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FDA Warning Letters Issued to 1,200 Tobacco Retailers

By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News - 11/10/2011

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent out warning letters to 1,200 retailers for violating laws against selling tobacco products to minors. The violations span all retail channels.

The letters are in response to inspections by the FDA and its state partners. The offending retailers now have a chance tell the agency how they are going to fix the problem before a follow-up inspection.

While 1,200 may seem like a large number, it is only small percentage of the 27,500-plus retail locations that were inspected. "The good news is that a majority of retailers are in compliance," Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, noted in a conference call this morning.

But the agency stressed that more needs to be done to keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors. Ann Simoneau, director of compliance and enforcement for FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, applauded the efforts of retailers, but said the number of retail establishment violating the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is still too high.

"The fact that youths can walk into 1,200 retail locations and buy tobacco products is 1,200 too many," she added in this morning's call.

In June 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products to prevent use by minors and reduce the impact on public health. One of the law's provisions permits the FDA to contract with states and territories to conduct compliance check inspections of tobacco retailers. In 2011, the FDA awarded compliance contracts totaling more than $24 million to 38 states, including the District of Columbia, supporting the creation of at least 266 jobs.

Retail inspections focus on sale and distribution restrictions including age and identification verification; requirements for labeling and advertising of smokeless tobacco products; restrictions on the sale of single cigarettes; a ban on certain candy-flavored cigarettes; and prohibited self-service displays and vending machines, according to the FDA.