In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or two, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now regulates all tobacco products, including cigars, hookah tobacco, and e-cigarettes. While the regulation of tobacco products often is viewed as an issue for manufacturers, it’s still very much an issue impacting tobacco retailers and violating these new and at times confusing new rules can have damaging and costly consequences. A quick visit to the FDA’s Tobacco Retailer Warning Letters page [click here] shows that this is a major issue, as there are 20 pages worth of tobacco retailers who have received a warning letter since June 22, 2017, alone.
What exactly is a warning letter and how do they come about? The FDA carries out undercover buy inspections, unbeknown to the retailer. These undercover operations involve a minor and inspector being in a store and attempting to purchase a regulated tobacco product. These minors are of course trained and the results of these operation are sent to the FDA for review. If there is no violation, great, then the inspection results are posted on the FDA’s website and the tobacco retailer has nothing to worry about–until the next inspection. Let’s say there is a violation and the trained minor is able to purchase a regulated tobacco product. Then what follows can get complicated and costly.