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NATO Urges Exemption in Self-service Tobacco Display Ban

WASHINGTON -- The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), along with the Cigar Association of America, the Pipe Tobacco Council and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, sent a letter earlier this week to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) objecting to a possible plan that would prohibit self-service displays of cigarettes, roll-your-own (RYO) and smokeless tobacco products in retail stores that permit only adults.

In the letter, NATO stated the plan may be pursuant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, and would eliminate the current exemption for retail stores that only permit adults to enter. This would be a revision to a 1996 FDA rule that attempted to regulate tobacco advertising, tobacco displays and tobacco sampling, but was struck down by a federal court.

The current rule bans self-service displays in most retail stores, but allows self-service displays in stores where "no person younger than 18 years of age is present, or permitted to enter, at any time."

The letter also gives seven reasons why the exemption should not be eliminated, some of which include:

-- The act itself grants the exemption and this recognition needs to be acknowledged and upheld.

-- Retailers that sell predominately tobacco products and only permit adults to enter offer the highest level of protection against underage youth accessing tobacco products.

-- It is common sense to allow adult customers in an adult-only retail store to be given the freedom to select adult-only tobacco products without the assistance of a store employee.

-- The extent to of self-service displays of tobacco products should not be exaggerated. The vast majority of such adult-only retail stores stock cigarettes in non-self-service display shelves, due to contract incentives from major cigarette manufacturers.

-- The customer demographic that shop at adult-only tobacco stores are different from that of retail stores accessible to individuals under 18 years of age.

In addition, NATO notified its members that the FDA law does not at this time regulate pipe tobacco or cigars, meaning those products can be on self-service displays in any kind of retail store.

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