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Lawmakers Reach Out to Convenience Industry Over Sales of Illegal Vapor Products

Five U.S. senators expressed their concern over retailers' failure to meet their obligations under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
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WASHINGTON D.C. — Five U.S. Senate committee chairs sent letters to 22 major convenience stores and their wholesalers reminding them of their obligations and legal liability under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. 

The letters included signatures from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. 

[Read more: Multiple Factors Are Driving an Uncertain Future for Tobacco]

The letters highlighted the apparent widespread violations of federal law that prohibits the sale and distribution of unauthorized tobacco products at c-stores, gas stations and other retail outlets in the United States.

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Under the law, no tobacco product — including alternative nicotine delivery systems such as electronic cigarettes or vaping devices — can legally enter the market for sale without having first received authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the product is "appropriate for the protection of public health."

"As [Senate] chairs … we are working with the Department of Justice, FDA, and other agencies, to ensure adequate enforcement of federal laws to protect public health and prevent the unauthorized sale of tobacco products," the letter stated. "We strongly encourage your company to ensure compliance with federal laws to prevent youth use of harmful tobacco products and protect your company from liability."

The retailers targeted in the letter included major chains, including 7-Eleven Inc.Casey’s General Stores Inc. and Wawa Inc., as well as large distributors, including Amcon Distributing Co. and McLane Co. Inc.

The majority of the addressed retailers had previously received warning letters and civil monetary penalties (CMPs) from the FDA within the past year for selling e-cigarettes to underage purchasers. 

As of Feb. 15 of this year, the FDA had issued more than 440 warning letters to and filed 100 CMPs against retailers for selling unauthorized tobacco products. 

The full list of retailers addressed by the senators may be found here.

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