Sizing Up the Sampling Ban

NATO’s Tom Briant offers these answers to the most frequently asked questions about the FDA ban on free samples.


1. What is a free sample?
The FDA defines a free sample as a tobacco product that does not cost the recipient anything. In other words, no money changes hands between the customer and the retailer.

2. Are promotions like buy two, get one free or buy one, get one free banned?
The answer is no. That is because there is an exchange of money between the customer
and the retailer in this type of promotion, so the free product is not really free. Also, FDA does not have the authority to regulate tobacco prices, and if the agency were to ban those types of promotions that would be a price regulation. Pricing is up to Congress, not FDA. Finally, in 2012 a U.S. Court of Appeals court made a ruling to address this issue and they decided that while free samples can be banned when no money exchanged hands, promotional prices do not constitute free samples and are to be allowed.