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Many pharmacists support FDA’s recent warning letters to drug stores, smoke shops, and other retailers over selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, and cigars to minors.
Many pharmacists-chain and independent alike-support FDA’s recent warning letters to drug stores, smoke shops, and other retailers over selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, and cigars to minors.
Matthew BalishFDA issued warning letters to 55 retailers in mid-September-a month after the agency began to enforce new federal regulations that made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and other newly-regulated tobacco products to anyone under age 18 in person or online. Retailers are required to check the photo IDs of anyone under age 27.
Three Walgreens stores in three different states, one Rite Aid store in Richland, Wash., and a Safeway store in Des Moines, Wash., were among the retailers sent warning letters in the sweeping enforcement action. Other stores that were issued warning letters include 7-Eleven, Circle K, Family Dollar, and a host of vaping/ e-cig shops.
“It seems preposterous that we would sell tobacco-like products to a minor,” said Brandy Rios, pharmacy clinical services manager for Walmart in Corpus Christi, Texas. “We don’t know the long-term effects, and minors aren’t mature enough to make these decisions on their own. It is right for the government to step up and say, ‘For your safety, we will stop you before you are mature enough to make these decisions’.”
Matthew Balish, staff pharmacist at Pemberton Pharmacy in Salisbury, Md., agrees with FDA’s rule prohibiting the sale of tobacco used in Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) to minors. “Nicotine in any delivery system is addictive, and preventing minors from using this is an important health goal,” Balish said.
Like most independent community pharmacies and chains such as CVS, Pemberton does not sell tobacco products.
According to some community pharmacists, many minors and adults don’t seem to be aware of the addictive nature of ENDs and their potential harmful effects.
“E-cigarettes are one of the most addicting things. If you are going to discontinue selling cigarettes, you have got to stop selling e-cigarettes as well,” said Fred Mayer, RPh, CEO of Pharmacy Planning Service Inc. and instigator of the Great American Smokeout campaign, earlier this year.
“We do not know the long-term health effects of the myriad of combination of flavor chemicals, solvents and nicotine effects on the lungs and overall human health,” Balish said. Plus, once someone uses an ENDS, “they may branch out to using other hazardous tobacco products.”
While chains such as Walgreens sell tobacco products, they do not want minors to have access to them. “We are disappointed that our company policy was not followed in the stores in question,” Jim Graham, senior manager of media relations for Walgreens, told Drug Topics. “We are diligently working to ensure that all employees of those stores are fully aware of our policy and of the vital importance of strictly enforcing it.”
Rite Aid also “takes the sale of tobacco very seriously and we are committed to upholding laws governing the sale of such products,” said Kristin Kellum, a spokesperson for the drug store chain. “All associates receive training on our procedures and policies regarding the sale of tobacco. Our local management team is taking this as an opportunity, and will immediately visit with the entire store team and go over the aforementioned procedures and policies.”