FDA Issues Tobacco Training Guidance

8 elements the agency is recommending for retailer training programs

LAKEVILLE, Minn. -- Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an updated “Guidance for Industry” document to assist retailers in implementing tobacco-training programs. The guidance was issued to help ensure federal compliance with existing regulations regarding the sale and distribution of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco.

Although the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act does not require retailers to implement a retailer training program, the Silver Spring, Md.-based FDA has indicated it plans to promulgate regulations establishing standards for approved retailer training programs. The guidance document released by the FDA is the first step in that process and contains nonbinding recommendations to retailers.

Employee-training programs are considered voluntary until the FDA establishes standards for approved retailer-training programs. Below is a summary and the components and elements that have been recommended by the FDA for retailer training programs for employees.

Recommended Elements for Retailer Training Programs

  1. Training: The FDA recommends that all current and new employees receive comprehensive training prior to selling cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or “covered tobacco products” (cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco). Moreover, the FDA suggests that retailers who currently have an employee training program about federal requirements should augment those programs as appropriate to incorporate the following seven recommended elements into their programs:
  2. Explanation of Applicable Laws and Penalties: The content that is provided to retail employees should describe the federal laws and regulations that restrict the sale and distribution of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco. The training program should include information on youth access and covered tobacco products, and also discuss penalties for violation.
  3. Health Effects of Youth Tobacco Use: The FDA requests that retailers consider including content in a training programs about the health and economic effects of tobacco use, especially when tobacco use begins at a young age. Retailers may choose examples or statistics that represent these effects or they can use recommended statistics provided by the FDA about the negative health effects of tobacco use.
  4. Written Company Policies: The FDA recommends that retailers adopt and enforce a written policy covering federal laws, including regulations, that restrict the sale and distribution of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco, as well as information on youth access. Further, the agency recommends that the policy is to be shared with all employees both verbally and in writing, acknowledged by the employees and documented in their training records.
  5. Description of Tobacco Products Covered by Applicable Laws: The FDA recommends that the training curriculum should clearly define which retail products sold by the retailer are considered to be covered under applicable federal laws and therefore subject to regulations.
  6. Age-Verification Techniques: For this element of an employee training program, the FDA recommends a clear company policy that covers identification requirements, the age that triggers photographic-identification verification and what constitutes acceptable forms of identification. The guidance document also recommends polices on the following techniques to ensure successful age verification: policies for photographic identification that contains a date of birth requirement; the importance of closely examining photographic identification; how to verify the authenticity of photographic identification; how to determine altered photographic identification; specific age-verifying procedures; and policies for insufficient photographic identification.
  7. Refusing Sales: The FDA recommends that a training program include practical guidance for refusing a sale when appropriate by using role playing that simulates possible sales transactions in a situation in which a sale must be refused. Also, the agency recommends an explanation that employees who refuse a sale of tobacco products when made in good faith by the employee would not violate the law.
  8. Employee Testing and Preparedness: The guidance document recommends that retailers should require employees to take a written test or other method determined by the retailer to be appropriate that covers the federal laws, including regulations, that restrict the sale and distribution of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco.

Included in the guidance document is notice that comments may be submitted at any time for the agency to consider regarding these recommended elements for implementing a tobacco-retailer training program. Click here to submit comments.

Brian Carr is deputy executive director of NATO, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, based in Lakeville, Minn.

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