Round 1: FDA Takes Enforcement Action

    The FDA announced its first enforcement actions since the deeming regulations went into effect


    Five weeks. That’s how long it took for the FDA to send warning letters to vaping vendors who failed “compliance checks,” and sold newly deemed “tobacco products” to minors. The FDA has been ramping up its compliance check operation, and they’re out to catch as many lax retailers as possible.

    The new federal regulations require retailers to check the ID of anyone under age 27, and makes sale to people under age 18 illegal. According to the FDA, it has conducted more than 660,000 inspections of tobacco retailers since 2009, issuing nearly 50,000 warning letters, and initiated 8,290 civil money penalty cases.

    “During compliance checks at major national retail chains, tobacco specialty stores and online retailers, minors were able to purchase some of these newly regulated tobacco products in a variety of youth-appealing flavors, including bubble gum, cotton candy and gummy bear,” the FDA announced.

    “Youth-appealing flavors”…of course. This is how the FDA justifies its regulations that amount to a complete ban of independent vapor products. And FDA Center for Tobacco Products director Mitch Zeller wasted no time using the issue to lobby for public approval of his ban.

    “We’re helping protect the health of America’s youth by enforcing restrictions that make it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors – including e-cigarettes, e-liquids and cigars. Retailers play a vital role in keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children and we urge them to take that responsibility seriously,” said Zeller. “It’s clear from these initial compliance checks that there’s a need for strong federal enforcement of these important youth access restrictions.”

    Whatever age verification system you choose, it needs to work.

    Warning letters are the first step in penalizing retailers who violate the FDA’s rules. Repeat offenders can be fined, and multiple offenses can earn a “no tobacco sale” order, preventing the retailer from selling any tobacco product.

    The list of 55 violators includes many vapor businesses, but also gas stations, convenience stores, and pharmacies, including many national chains.

    All of the vapor business violations appear to be online sales.

    Businesses need to understand that the FDA will use these results to justify further regulations. Whatever age verification system you choose, it needs to work. Failing to prevent sales to minors will have an effect on the whole industry’s future.

    Jim McDonald
    Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy