The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its final rules regarding the sale of tobacco. Retailers will need to be in compliance with these rules, which restrict the sale, distribution and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, by June 22. The new rules include provisions that:
•Prohibit sales of cigarette packages with fewer than 20 cigarettes.
•Prohibit the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in vending machines, self-service displays, or other impersonal modes of sales, except in very limited situations.
•Restrict free samples of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products.
•Prohibit tobacco brand name sponsorship of any athletic, musical, or other social or cultural event, or any team or entry in those events.
•Prohibit gifts or other items in exchange for buying cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products.
•Require that audio ads use only words with no music or sound effects.
•Prohibit the sale or distribution of items, such as hats and T-shirts, with tobacco brands or logos.
The rules would also require most tobacco advertising and labeling to be in black text on a white background. This requirement, however, is currently the subject of litigation. In a decision, which is on appeal, a District Court in Kentucky has stopped this provision from going into effect.
In a related action, the FDA is seeking public comment on whether restrictions on outdoor advertising are necessary to protect youth from tobacco use. The 1996 rule banned tobacco products on outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds. However, a similar prohibition was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The FDA has asked for comment from retailers and tobacco consumers on the current state of the research and potential alternative approaches. Public comment on that provision will be open until May 18.