The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its first warning letters to retailers for selling tobacco to minors, Reuters reported Jan. 7.
The FDA was granted authority over the sales and marketing of tobacco products under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The FDA launched a state enforcement program in 2010, according to an agency press release Jan. 7. The program pays state inspectors to ensure that retailers are complying with the law.
Though the FDA currently contracts with only 15 states to perform retailer inspections, it will expand the program to all 50 states and U.S. territories in the next fiscal year.
Mississippi was the first state to participate in the enforcement program. State inspectors visited 493 retailers, and the FDA issued warning letters to 25 of them on Dec. 29, 2010. The state attorney general, Jim Hood, said, “Our inspectors are out in the field every day, doing their part to prevent youth access to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.”
Among other things, inspectors check whether retailers:
- sell to minors;
- ask for ID;
- stock flavored cigarettes or individual cigarettes (both of which are outlawed); or
- have self-service machines or displays that underage youth can use.
“Retailers play a role in protecting our kids from becoming the next generation of Americans to die prematurely from tobacco-related disease,” said Lawrence R. Deyton, who directs the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We are providing retail establishments with the information needed to comply with the law. However, if inspectors identify violations, the FDA will take swift actions [sic] to protect young people.”
Violations can be reported to the FDA at 1-877-287-1373 or on the FDA’s tobacco products web page.