The U.S. government on Thursday released its list of retailers busted for selling tobacco to minors, two years after the feds started cracking down on the illegal sales.
Across the U.S., most of the 1,200 retailers slapped with warnings got caught selling tobacco to children under 18 years old, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made sure the businesses got their day in the light for using shady business practices.
It should worry every parent that 20 percent of U.S. high school students smoke cigarettes, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement that accompanied the announcement. 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. Retailers are vital partners in the FDA's efforts to prevent tobacco use among kids.
The FDA published a searchable database of the 27,500 compliance checks at U.S. retailers. The database allows shoppers to find stores that don't comply with underage selling laws and also to read the warning letters the FDA issues to noncompliant businesses.
Though most of the noncompliance issues involved selling to minors, violations included single sales of cigarettes, improper labeling and advertising of smokeless tobacco, candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes and sell-serve vending machines.
FDA's push comes from the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a law passed in 2009 and enacted in 2010 that gave the food and drug regulator the authority to oversee tobacco products.
Part of the law permitted the FDA to outsource inspections, which amounted to $24 million in contracts across 38 states in 2011.
Through this program, we are exercising the authority Congress and the President gave to FDA to enforce the youth access and advertising regulations that took effect in June 2010, Lawrence Deyton, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said in a statement. While we applaud the efforts made by many retail establishments to protect our kids, the fact that our nation's youth can walk into 1,200 retail locations and still obtain access to these deadly products is 1,200 too many.