U.S. FDA inspects retailers in Mississippi; issues warning letters for illegal tobacco sales to minors..

January 7, 2011 - SILVER SPRING, Md., Jan. 7, 2011 - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced it is issuing its first warning letters to retailers for the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors in violation of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act). Using state inspectors who have been commissioned by the agency, the FDA visited 493 different retail establishments in Mississippi over the past three months and issued 25 warnings.

Background:
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) (Public Law 111-31; 123 Stat. 1776) was enacted on June 22, 2009, providing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to regulate tobacco products in order to protect the public health generally, and to prevent and reduce tobacco use by minors. In enacting the Tobacco Control Act, Congress found, among other things, that the use of tobacco products by children is a pediatric disease and virtually all new users of tobacco products are under the minimum legal age to purchase such products (sections 2(1) and (4) of the Tobacco Control Act).

FDA’s goals for the enforcement of the requirements established by the Tobacco Control Act and applicable advertising and promotion regulations are to prevent the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to children and adolescents, and to reduce exposure to marketing efforts that entice children and adolescents to start smoking.

FDA has the authority to take enforcement action against violative tobacco products and against persons who violate the requirements established by the Tobacco Control Act and applicable regulations. FDA may utilize several enforcement tools, including but not limited to, the following which are discussed further below: Warning Letters, civil money penalties, no-tobacco-sale orders, seizures, injunctions, and/or criminal prosecutions.

Warning Letters issued by the FDA are generally posted on FDA’s website, which is accessible to the public. The FDA posts resulting Warning Letters on a weekly basis. The most recent Warning Letters are posted at: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/default.htm#recent. Inspected retail outlets where no violations were observed is updated and posted monthly.

Enforcement Action Plan for Promotion and Advertising Restrictions - October 2010
Mississippi was the first state to participate in the FDA's State Enforcement Program, which got underway in the summer of 2010 and is designed to help enforce many provisions of the Tobacco Control Act and implementing regulations. The FDA established the program in 2010 and currently a total of 15 states have been awarded contracts to carry out inspections. A list of retail establishments found to be in violation of the law, as well as those which have been inspected and where no violations were observed, can now be found on the FDA's website.

"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, M.S.P.H., M.D., director of 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 to protect young people."

Rules which limit the sale, distribution and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to protect the health of children and adolescents took effect on June 22, 2010. And, in order to help enforce these rules, the FDA awarded contracts to 15 states to assist in inspecting retail establishments that sell cigarettes and/or smokeless tobacco products.

During these compliance check inspections, officials are observing whether the retailers comply with various aspects of the law, including whether the retailer:
sells a tobacco product to a minor; requests proper identification; sells prohibited flavored cigarettes or individual cigarettes; and has self-service displays, like vending machines, which can be accessed by minors.

In fiscal year 2011-2012, the FDA plans to award enforcement contracts to all states and U.S. territories to assist with enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act.

To report a violation, call the FDA Center for Tobacco Products call center at 1-877-287-1373 or go to their website at http://www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts/default.htm.

Media Inquiries: Jeffrey Ventura, 301-796-2807, jeffrey.ventura@fda.hhs.gov; Consumer Inquiries: 877.CTP.1373

Reference:
FDA Inspects Retailers in Miss.; Issues Warning Letters for Illegal Tobacco Sales to Minors, SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration, PRNewswire.com, 1/7/2011.

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