The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is boosting its compliance inspections and making retailer compliance checks a priority. In recent years the agency has increased its number of inspectors from 1,218 in 2008 to 1,600 in 2011, and has conducted more than 91,000 retailer compliance checks on tobacco-related regulations.
“FDA’s retailer compliance inspections are increasing every month,” reported Doug Anderson, president of The We Card Program. “In June, more than 11,000 inspections of retailers occurred. The time to train managers and frontline employees and increase their awareness of what’s required to comply is now for those who’ve haven’t moved in that direction already.”
The FDA is currently issuing warning letters to retailers who are found in violation during an initial store inspection. Violations found in follow-up compliance checks may result in fines or penalties. According to online FDA enforcement data, the agency conducted more than 35,000 store inspections in 2011 and issued more than 1,700 Warning Letters. The pace is on track to double in 2012, where data through July 2012 shows more than 55,000 store inspections yielding some 2,115 warning letters, with 316 retailers pursued by FDA for fines.
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave FDA the authority to regulate tobacco, which applies to selling cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. Violations observed during FDA retailer inspections range from warning letters to steep fines maxing out at $10,000—with a worst case of a “No Sale” order that prohibits the sale of tobacco at the establishment.
In the near future, FDA will likely issue regulations governing the sale of other products, such as e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.
To help retailers comply with FDA requirements, the We Card Program offers online training on FDA requirements and the recommendations in FDA’s Draft Guidance for Tobacco Retailer Training Programs. The training is available on line at www.wecard.org and can also be licensed and run on internal corporate computer-based training systems. (NACS: www.nacsonline.com)