Though not as contested as the notion of placing anti-smoking ads in and around c-stores, some retailers were quick to point out that the convenience industry has long employed its own programs to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

“The FDA just asked your store to deploy This Is Our Watch posters and calendars,” said Calvin of NYACS. “Didn’t they realize that you’ve used nearly identical We Card signage and calendars for 20 years?”

Indeed, the Arlington, Va.-based We Card program was developed in 1995 to assist retailers of tobacco and other age-restricted products and has been supported by trade associations, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. In addition to calendars, posters and training books, the We Card program also offers e-learning training courses and ID check mystery-shopping services.

Unlike the FDA materials, which focus on the federal minimum purchase age of 18, We Card has materials available for states and cities that have raised the tobacco purchase age to 19 or 21.

Zeller acknowledged this issue while speaking at a NATO Regional Education Seminar on Aug. 23, 2017. He said even though there are other retail programs, retailers have told the FDA that they want the agency to explain how businesses need to comply with federal tobacco regulations.