FDA warns on selling tobacco to minors

Nov. 10, 2011 at 7:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it sent warning letters to more than 1,200 retailers, most involving selling tobacco to minors.

Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, said most retailers inspected by the FDA were in compliance with the law, but some are still selling cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to minors. Warning letters may be followed by civil money penalties if retailers continue to violate the law, Hamburg said.

"It should worry every parent that 20 percent of U.S. high school students smoke cigarettes," Hamburg said in a statement. "President Obama and the FDA are committed to preventing children from smoking. For many young people, that first cigarette or use of smokeless tobacco will lead to a lifetime of addiction, and for many, serious disease. More than 80 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before 18 years of age."

As of today, FDA-commissioned officials have conducted more than 27,500 compliance checks, Hamburg said.

Retail inspections focus on sale and distribution restrictions, including:

-- Age and ID verification.

-- Requirements for labeling and advertising of smokeless tobacco products.

-- Restrictions on the sale of single cigarettes.

-- A ban on certain candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes.

-- Prohibited self-service displays and vending machines.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that gives the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products to prevent use by minors and other tools to prevent smoking such as graphic warning labels.

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