The FDA sent warning letters to 40 companies citing instances of illegal distribution of tobacco and nicotine-containing products to minors.
Among these companies, Walgreens was the violator with the highest number of instances. The company was cited for nearly 1,800 instances of sales violations since 2010. The list of companies receiving letters includes Walmart, Kroger, gas stations, and convenience stores.
This specific batch of warning letters was ignited by a retail outlet of Walgreens in Miami, FL, that has was cited for five violations within three years.
In the letter to Walgreens Co., FDA commission Scott Gottlieb, MD, requested a meeting with Walgreens leadership to discuss the corporate-wide issue.
"Ignoring the law and then paying associated fines and penalties should not simply be viewed as a cost of doing business,” Gottlieb says. "The stakes are too high for our young people and our country’s decades-long fight to reduce the morbidity and mortality that accompanies tobacco product use. Retailers are on the frontlines of these efforts to reduce the health consequences of tobacco use and nicotine dependence. Walgreens, and other retail chains, should take seriously not only their legal obligations, but also the substantial public health importance of preventing tobacco product sales to minors at their stores."
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According to the FDA's announcement, it will follow up with many retailers, including: Marathon, Exxon, Sunoco, BP, Citgo, Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Casey’s General Stores, 7-Eleven, Family Dollar, Kroger, Walgreens, Circle K, and Walmart for alleged violations.
Gottlieb says the FDA also plans to share additional plans to policy changes as results are collected from commissioned studies examining the potential for direct harm to lungs and other health factors from e-cigarette usage.
On March 05, 2019, Walgreens released a statement on the FDA letter welcoming the opportunity to meet with the FDA commissioner to discuss steps the company will take to address the issue.
"We have a zero tolerance policy prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors and any employee violating this policy is subject to immediate termination," the company says. "We require age verification from anyone purchasing these products, regardless of age, in all of our stores nationwide.