NATO Director Updates C-Store Retailers on Tobacco

Thomas Briant shared the latest on FDA enforcement, OTP regs with CRU attendees

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Enforcement of new federal rules, the status of graphic health-warning labels as well as updates on other tobacco products (OTP) regulations were issues at the center of a workshop at CSP’s annual Convenience Retailing University conference.

Updating about 80 attendees during the conference workshop, Thomas Briant, executive director of the Minneapolis-based National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), reported on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) efforts.

For instance, Briant spoke of the FDA’s effort to enforce its new rules on the sale of tobacco products at retail outlets. It signed contracts with 38 states to conduct compliance investigations. Thus far, 95% of the 34,244 stores reviewed passed. Of the complaints registered, six retailers were hit with $250 fines, 11 with $500 fines and three with $5,000 fines. But according to Briant, several of the fines were assessed at lower amounts than the rules stipulate.

In an update on new text and graphic-image warning labels, Briant said that tobacco manufacturers were successful in getting a temporary injunction on the new FDA rules, which were to go into effect this September. The regulation would have mandated nine text warnings and graphic images be printed on the top 50% of the front and back of cigarette packages, the left 50% of the front and back of cigarette cartons and the top 20% of all printed cigarette advertisements.

In the court decision handed down last November, a federal judge found that the five tobacco manufacturers bringing the suit would likely win due to First Amendment free-speech protections, including the right to commercial speech. The FDA has appealed the decision, but manufacturers do not have to comply during that appeals process.

Regarding other tobacco products, Briant said the FDA is considering regulations for electronic cigarettes, as well as products like cigars and pipe tobacco. Back in April of last year, the FDA issued a letter stating its intent to propose regulations on OTP. The requirements would cover items like manufacturer registration, and the listing of products, ingredients and best practices. Thus far, the FDA has yet to announce any new regulations.

In other regulatory fronts, the FDA is currently developing a set of standards for employee training programs. While it already issued a guidance document covering things like asking anyone under 27 for a photo I.D., it must still issue standards for “approved” programs. The FDA has said it will not certify existing programs such as the “We Card” program that many in the industry have adopted.

On another matter, Briant mentioned that the FDA was seeking public comment on a form allowing customers to report violations of the tobacco regulations that they may find. He said comments opposing the idea said the FDA didn’t receive direction to produce such a form, that it has already contracted 38 states to conduct enforcement activities and that the general public won’t be properly trained to spot violations.

The three-day CRU conference was held in Ft. Worth, Texas, last week and featured industry speakers and workshops on category issues and retailing trends. About 500 c-store retailers, suppliers and related individuals attended the event, which was sponsored by Oak Brook, Ill.-based CSP LLC.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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