Retailers in 5 States Feel Brunt of FDA Sting

By 
Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

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CHICAGO -- Sometimes bigger doesn’t mean better. It can put a spotlight on the brand when the government comes calling.

That scrutiny befell 7-Eleven, among other convenience-store chains, as well as drugstore Walgreens, both of which received the most number of warning letters among retailers named in a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) crackdown on alleged sales of e-cigarettes to minors.

Eighty-one 7-Eleven stores and 73 Walgreens locations across the country appeared on the FDA’s list of stores receiving 1,300 warning letters and fines as a result of a summerlong undercover operation at the store level, the agency announced on Sept. 12.

In response to the number of warning letters, 7-Eleven issued a statement to CSP Daily News: “7-Eleven franchisees are independent business owners and are solely responsible for verifying customers’ ages prior to selling age-restricted items. As part of the 7-Eleven franchise agreement, 7-Eleven requires all franchise business owners to comply with all federal, state and local laws related to selling age-restricted products. 7-Eleven takes compliance with laws seriously, and a franchisee’s violation of the law is a breach of the 7-Eleven franchise agreement that can lead to termination of the franchise relationship. 7-Eleven is fully cooperating with law enforcement.”

Regarding the FDA, other retailer and manufacturers’ responses ranged from agreements to work with the FDA to accusations of the agency appearing “disingenuous.”

Here’s how the FDA’s list broke down. ...

C-stores

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Beyond 7-Eleven’s name appearing on the FDA’s list 81 times, stores with the Circle K brand, whose parent company is Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, received 45 notices, with the next c-store chain of note being Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores with 29 notices.

Major-oil companies

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As a whole, major-oil company locations with or without a separate c-store brand appeared on the list a number of times—but collectively not as much as the highest-cited retail chains. Houston-based Shell got hit with 40 letters and Irving, Texas-based Mobil received 35.

Drugstore

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Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens was noticeably high on the FDA’s warning-letter list, with the national drugstore chain receiving 73 notices.

States with the highest number of citations

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The states that received the highest number of warning letters included Florida at 145, Illinois at 122, Washington at 101, Tennessee at 81 and Michigan at 49. Of course, the number of citations could have been affected by where the FDA was able to send its resources, but in any case, retailers in those states bore the brunt of the government’s recent actions.

Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock