The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on September 15 that it has taken action against 55 tobacco retailers by issuing the first warning letters for selling newly regulated tobacco products—such as e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and cigars—to minors. These actions come about a month after the FDA began enforcing new federal regulations making it illegal nationwide to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and other newly regulated tobacco products to anyone under age 18 in person and online and requiring retailers to check photo identification of anyone under age 27, among other restrictions.
Mitch Zeller, JD
“We’re helping protect the health of America’s youth by enforcing restrictions that make it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors—including e-cigarettes, e-liquids and cigars. Retailers play a vital role in keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children and we urge them to take that responsibility seriously,” said Mitch Zeller, JD, Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “It’s clear from these initial compliance checks that there’s a need for strong federal enforcement of these important youth access restrictions.”
During compliance checks at major national retail chains, tobacco specialty stores, and online retailers, minors were able to purchase some of these newly regulated tobacco products in a variety of youth-appealing flavors, including bubble gum, cotton candy, and gummy bear.
Before the final rule that extended the FDA’s authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco, among others, there was no federal prohibition on the sale of these products to children, contributing to skyrocketing use by youth. Data from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show current e-cigarette use among high school students increased by more than 900% between 2011 and 2015, and hookah use also increased significantly during this time. Additionally, data show high school boys smoked cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes. The rule, which went into effect on August 8, 2016, allows the FDA to protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco use through provisions aimed at restricting youth access. ■