THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) — A new government report reveals that federal regulators need to do more to help in the battle to keep children and teens off tobacco.
Among the report’s findings were that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs to get tough on retailers selling tobacco to youth and should improve its oversight of online retailers. The FDA should also work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to help stop online tobacco sales to children, according to the report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The FDA needs to prioritize enforcement actions against retailers with a history of noncompliance, the OIG said. The agency plans to discuss stricter enforcement with internal experts by November and agreed that inspections are a key part of keeping children from smoking or vaping.
The FDA did more than 1 million inspections between 2010 and 2020 looking for underage sales, according to the report. The agency inspected about 74 percent of 360,000 stores at least once. It typically returned within a year if the inspection found a violation. Still, more than 3 million adolescents used tobacco within the previous month, according to a 2022 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The role of the FDA has included regulating the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of tobacco since 2009, which it does with surprise inspections and undercover underage buyers. Inspections are more widespread in certain states than in others. While more than half of states inspected at least 90 percent of retailers, in Nevada it was just 32 percent; in the Virgin Islands, it was 37 percent; and in California, it was 42 percent. Challenges in those areas include the state of Nevada’s unwillingness to help with inspections, hurricane damage in the Virgin Islands, and state budget woes in California.
About 10 percent of all the stores reached through these inspections had violations between 2019 and 2020, according to the report. The FDA sent more than 93,000 warning letters to violators in the decade included in the report. The agency can also fine for violations, up to $11,698 for six violations in 48 months. It did so more than 24,000 times during the studied decade for repeat violations. But among retailers with histories of violations, only 9 percent paid the civil penalties in full. Those with fewer violations paid 60 percent in full. The FDA also barred 204 stores from selling tobacco, which was less than 1 percent of inspection violators.
Copyright © 2023 HealthDay. All rights reserved.