Smokeless Signals

FDA holds retailer webinar on smokeless tobacco product packaging, advertising

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) detailed for retailers "Smokeless Tobacco Product Packaging & Advertising Requirements" in a webinar last week.

The intent of the webinar, according to Ele Ibarra-Pratt, CTP group leader of promotion, advertising and labeling, was to "make retailers aware of the requirements, and that these requirements are currently in effect" for smokeless tobacco products manufactured on or after June 22, 2010.

Those products must now display new warnings on both packaging and [image-nocss] advertising. The four newer warnings are: WARNING: This product can cause mouth cancer. WARNING: This product can cause gum disease and tooth loss. WARNING: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. WARNING: Smokeless tobacco is addictive.

Retailers can, however, sell off any products that they currently have, which might have older warnings.

For advertising, the level of responsibility for retailers differs, depending on whether the retailer is creating his own advertising or using manufacturer advertising.

If a retailer is supplied an ad, Ibarra-Pratt said, "Those ads, a retailer would not be responsible for, unless that retailer decides to post an ad that doesn't have a warning label on it or the retailer decides to alter the warning label statement that may impact the warning label requirements under the Smokeless Tobacco Act."

If a retailer creates his own ad, it needs to have one of the four required warning statements. The warning should comprise at least 20% of the area of the advertisement, be in black text on a white background or in white text on a black background, display the word "WARNING" in all capital letters, be in conspicuous and legible type and be enclosed by a rectangular border that is the same color as the text of the statement. Warnings can't be condensed or paraphrased, and the ads can't include modified-risk claims like "low," "light" or "mild." Warnings must also be rotated on a quarterly basis, so that the retailer is showing a different warning every three months for each brand of the product being advertised.

Ibarra-Pratt said that other requirements exist, and that retailers must make sure to familiarize themselves with the act, and ensure they are compliant with all of them.

Packaging has similar requirements. If received by a license- or permit-holding tobacco product manufacturer, importer or distributor, a retailer must ensure a health warning is on the package and that the warning label is not altered in a way that materially impacts the warning label requirements for packaging.

If the retailer creates or directs the warning labels for smokeless packaging, it must contain one of the four statements, comprise at last 30% of each principal display panel, be in 17-point conspicuous and legible type and be in black text on white background or white text on black background, contrasting by typography, layout or color with other printed material on the package.

The FDA can take action for noncompliance that can include warning letters, civil money penalties, injunctions, seizures or criminal prosecution.

Click hereto view slides of the presentation.

The webinar was the third in a series from the FDA CTP. The next will be held Tuesday, July 26 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Click here for more information.

This article first appeared in Tobacco E-News, the companion newsletter of CSP Daily News. For more on tobacco, click here to subscribe to Tobacco E-News.