The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated enforcement action against multiple locations of Walgreen Co. and Circle K Stores. According to the FDA, these retailers have repeatedly selling and distributing various tobacco products–including cigars and menthol cigarettes–to minors.
A Walgreens located in Miami, Florida and a Circle K in Charleston, South Carolina, are part of this issue. The FDA has filed complaints seeking No-Tobacco-Sale Orders (NTSO) against the two specific retail locations that were found to be in violation. This order would prevent these locations from selling tobacco products for 30 days.
“I will be writing the corporate management of Walgreens and requesting a meeting with them to discuss whether there is a corporate-wide issue related to their stores’ non-compliance and put them on notice that the FDA is considering additional enforcement avenues to address their record of violative tobacco sales to youth,” commented Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner. “We all share the important responsibility of keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of kids. Retailers in particular – especially those who position themselves as health-and-wellness-minded businesses – are on the frontlines of these efforts and must take that legal obligation seriously. I’m also deeply disturbed that a single pharmacy chain racked up almost 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to minors across the country. I have particular concerns about whether the pharmacy setting is influencing consumer and retailer perceptions around tobacco products in a way that’s contributing to these troubling findings.
“The FDA will continue to hold retailers accountable by vigorously enforcing the law. We are also evaluating our data on other large, national retail chains to identify other entities that also have high rates of repeat violations and are considering what additional measures we should pursue. While many of our recent enforcement actions focused on the illegal sales and marketing of e-cigarettes, today’s announcement is a reminder that youth access to all tobacco products remains a public health problem. No child should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing product. And no retailer should be illegally selling these products to minors. As part of our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, we’ll continue to employ all the tools at our disposal to monitor, penalize and prevent sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to minors at brick-and-mortar stores and Internet storefronts as we work to ensure these products are sold in ways that make them less accessible and appealing to kids.”
Walgreens has racked up a record 1,550 warning letters and 240 civil money penalty actions after the FDA found these retail locations had sold tobacco products to minors. This is the first time an NTSO has been issued due to the sale of cigars, which is a deemed product, to minors. Typically, those who have received an NTSO complaint have up to 30 days to respond. These retailers may enter into settlement agreement or respond with an answer and contest the allegations before an administrative law judge. With this recent crackdown, the FDA has announced that it plans to conduct more unannounced compliance check inspections.
To read the full press release from the FDA about these enforcement actions, click here.