‘This is Our Watch’: FDA Supports Retailers In Keeping Tobacco Out Of Youth’s Hands

‘This is Our Watch’: FDA Supports Retailers In Keeping Tobacco Out Of Youth’s Hands

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by Mitch Zeller, J.D.
Mitch Zeller, J.D., Director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco ProductsEach day in the United States, nearly 2,500 youth under age 18 smoke their first cigarette and more than 400 become daily cigarette smokers. In fact, more teenage boys light up a cigar each day (about 1,300) for the first time than light up a cigarette (about 1,100). Tobacco retailers – including store owners, managers, and clerks—have an important responsibility to protect teenagers from tobacco-related disease and death by not selling tobacco products to minors.
FDA has created a new retailer education program called “This is Our Watch” to help retailers comply with FDA regulations prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors. These regulations require, for example, that retailers check photo ID to verify that a person wanting to purchase a tobacco product is at least 18 years old.
FDA’s “This is Our Watch” program provides free resources to help retail store owners and their employees understand how to comply with these federal requirements. Specifically, packages are being mailed to retailers that contain a store poster, stickers and signs for the register, flyers explaining federal requirements, and a calendar to help verify a person’s age.
Retailers should expect to receive these educational materials in the mail within the coming weeks. And additional copies of the materials can be downloaded or ordered at no cost.
FDA has created a new retailer education program called “This is Our Watch” to help retailers comply with FDA regulations prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors. These regulations require, for example, that retailers check photo ID to verify that a person wanting to purchase a tobacco product is at least 18 years old.
This information is meant to be shared with store employees – including managers and clerks – and can be placed behind the counter where they are easy to see. The materials can also help retailers maintain positive relationships with their customers by informing patrons of the law and emphasizing the role that retailers play in protecting kids from the harm of tobacco products.
“This is Our Watch,” which updates FDA’s “Break the Chain of Tobacco Addiction” retailer education program launched in 2010, was designed based on input from retailers across the country. We created these resources bearing in mind that tobacco product retailers vary—from convenience stores to grocery stores to specialty shops. These new resources are designed to be clear and direct in helping owners and employees adhere to federal requirements.
The resources cover major federal requirements meant to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors and save lives. Among these requirements, retailers must:
Check photo ID of everyone under age 27 who attempts to purchase any tobacco product.
Only sell tobacco products to customers age 18 or older.
Retailers must also follow state/territory tobacco laws, even if they are more restrictive. For example, the minimum age is 19 in some states.
Never sell tobacco products in a vending machine unless it is an adult-only facility.
An adult-only facility is one in which minors are neither present nor permitted to enter at any time.
NOT give away free samples of tobacco products, including any of their components or parts, to consumers.

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In addition to offering compliance training and education programs such as “This is Our Watch,” FDA also conducts inspections of retail establishments to monitor for compliance and, when violations are observed, takes action in the form of warning letters, civil money penalties, and no-tobacco-sale orders.
When it comes to preventing youth tobacco use, FDA relies on the retail community to protect their young customers by keeping those under 18 from purchasing tobacco products. More information is available on FDA’s website about federal rules and regulations relevant to the tobacco retailer community. People may also contact the Center for Tobacco Products’ Office of Compliance and Enforcement at 1-877-1373 or CTPCompliance@fda.hhs.gov.
Mitch Zeller, J.D., is Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

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