FDA Asked to Cancel Inaccurate Commercials

NATO, NYACS, NECSA and PMAA accuse ads of falsely depicting c-store sales

Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

The FDA's menthol ad

MINNEAPOLIS -- NATO, the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), the New England Convenience Store Association (NECSA), and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) have sent letters to the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products requesting that two commercials from the agency’s “The Real Cost” media campaign, which inaccurately and falsely depict convenience store retailers selling cigarettes to a girl and a boy, be removed from television commercial airing schedule, deleted from the YouTube website, and not distributed in any other manner.

The “Your Teeth/Your Teeth Menthol” and “Your Skin/Your Skin Menthol” television commercials are part of a new anti-smoking media campaign by the FDA aimed youth 12 to 17 years old. These commercials were scheduled to begin airing on television on February 11 and are already uploaded to YouTube. To view the commercials, click here.

These two commercials contain inaccurate and false depictions of a cigarette sales transaction in a convenience store. In each commercial, neither store clerk looks at the photo identification to determine if the boy and girl are of legal age to purchase cigarettes and to verify that the photo is actually of these young individuals. This failure to examine the photo identification does not comply with federal regulations, which require a retailer to verify a customer’s age using the photo identification if the individual is under the age of 27.

Moreover, the depiction of the retail clerks accepting an extracted tooth from the boy and a portion of facial skin from the girl as partial payment to buy the cigarettes is a false portrayal of a transaction involving the sale of cigarettes. 

These television commercials depict retail store clerks as being willing to sell cigarettes without regard to checking a customer’s photo identification, determining whether the customer is of legal age, and accepting a tooth or facial skin as “currency” to partially pay for a pack of cigarettes. This erroneous representation of retail store personnel in television commercials produced by a federal government agency is an offensive and unacceptable situation. Moreover, despite the significant strides made by law-abiding retailers to comply with tobacco regulations as demonstrated by the high retail success rates in FDA compliance inspections, these commercials perpetuate the myth that retailers are a ready source of cigarettes for youth.