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FDA Continues to Issue Warning Letters for Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors

March 29, 2011 17 comments

Every day nearly 4,000 kids under 18 try their first cigarette and 1,000 kids under 18 become daily smokers. Virtually all new users of tobacco products are under the minimum legal age to purchase such products. Many of these kids will become addicted before they are old enough to understand the risks and will ultimately die too young of tobacco-related diseases.

FDA is working to protect the health of America’s children and ultimately reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco use by enforcing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) and Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco to Protect Children and Adolescents. This regulation, which took effect on June 22, 2010, limits the sale, distribution, and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to protect the health of children and adolescents.

FDA works to inform retailers about these laws through the Break the Chain of Tobacco Addition campaign. FDA will also host a series of Compliance Training for Tobacco Retailers, to be held on March 29, April 26, May 18, June 28, July 26, and September 20, 2011, to provide retailers with training on federal tobacco regulations.

Last year, in order to help enforce these laws, FDA awarded contracts to 15 states to assist in inspecting retail establishments that sell cigarettes and/or smokeless tobacco products. In the upcoming years, FDA plans to award enforcement contracts to all states and U.S. territories to assist with enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act.

The goal of the State Enforcement Program is to improve public health and to protect young people by bringing enforcement action against retailers who violate the law. State inspectors under these FDA enforcement contracts conduct compliance check inspections to determine if retailers comply with the law, including whether the retailer:

  • sells a tobacco product to a minor;
  • requests proper identification;
  • sells prohibited flavored cigarettes or individual cigarettes; and
  • sells tobacco products in a self-service display, like a vending machine, which can be accessed by minors.

We appreciate the efforts and commitment of all states who have contracted with FDA to assist in enforcing the Tobacco Control Act and FDA regulation. More than 95 Warning Letters have been issued to retailers for illegal sales of cigarettes and/or smokeless tobacco to minors. FDA’s website posts Warning Letters that have been issued as well as a list of retailers that have been inspected and where no violations were observed.

We encourage anyone who is aware of retailers who may violate the Tobacco Control Act to report violations to FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products through our website, by email or by phone (1-877-CTP-1373).

Thank you,
Ann Simoneau
Director, Office of Compliance and Enforcement

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