On August 8, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began restricting retailers' ability to sell additional tobacco products beyond simply cigarettes. Such products include e-cigarettes and vaping products, rather than only traditional combustible cigarettes. These products became subject to minimum purchasing age (18) requirements and associated customer age identification verification requirements, as well as marketing and advertising restrictions and a prohibition of vending machine sales of e-cigarettes. The rules also impose these restrictions on hookah, pipe tobacco, and cigars.
Because FDA and various states are conducting undercover "sting" operations, it is imperative that tobacco retailers understand their obligations and have effective compliance programs in place. NATSO has prepared a comprehensive toolkit for travel plaza operators outlining what these government inspections will cover, as well as how retailers should respond if they are accused of violating the law.
In other tobacco news, eight public health and medical groups on Oct. 4, 2016, filed a lawsuit in federal court to force FDA to require graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and advertising. Federal legislation passed in 2009 required graphic warnings to cover the top half of cigarette packages and 20 percent of all advertising, but FDA's efforts to implement this provision were found to violate the First Amendment by a federal court. That ruling only applied to FDA's specific proposal, however, and not to the entire effort to require graphic warning labels. A different federal court ruled that the FDA's proposed labels did not violate the First Amendment.
The lawsuit is designed to prompt FDA to require different graphic warning labels, this time consistent with the First Amendment. The FDA stated in 2013 that it planned to require different warnings but has yet to act.
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