A month after its deeming rule came into effect, extending its authority to e-cigarettes and cigars in addition to cigarettes and other tobacco products, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued letters to 24 websites for illegal sales to minors. The letters were the first to have been sent. Warning letters were also issued to 28 retailers of cigars and e-cigarettes and three letters to websites selling cigars.
The recipients of these letters had 15 days to reply to FDA letters and explain how they planned to prevent future underage sales. Repeat violators would face a US$275 fine. Although FDA has not moved to ban online sales, the letters clearly signify that the agency is closely monitoring those outlets for underage sales.
According to Greg Conly, president of the American Vaping Association, FDA has not provided compliance guidelines to online retailers, making it difficult for them to identify an age-verification platform that would satisfy FDA. He also said that the agency is far more transparent with how it checks brick-and-mortar stores.
Between August 8-31, FDA completed about 8,700 inspections of brick-and-mortar tobacco retailers for sales to minors, and issued 400 additional warning letters related to cigarette and smokeless-tobacco sales. Businesses who received warnings included gas stations, convenience stores, and drugstores. Most of the warnings were for sales of cigars from brands such as Swisher Sweets, owned by Swisher International Inc., and Black & Mild, owned by Altria Group Inc. No vape shops received warning letters for selling to minors.