The National Association of Tobacco Outlets’ (NATO) board members, and Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) and his staff held a meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss the FDA’s pending guidance document that includes recommended elements of a tobacco retailer clerk training program.
NATO had two overall goals for the meeting. First, establish an on-going dialogue and open the lines of communication between the association and the CTP staff. Second, encourage the FDA staff to utilize NATO and its members as a resource for questions about the manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing of tobacco products.
NATO representatives attending this meeting included NATO President Andy Kerstein, NATO Vice-President Mary Szarmach, NATO Board Members Dave Riser of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Nef Garcia of McLane Co., and Anne Flint of Cumberland Farms, along with NATO Federal Legislative Director Jackie Cohen and NATO Executive Director Tom Briant.
Retailer Training Program Discussion: During the meeting, concerns were discussed and questions asked regarding the requirements for tobacco retailer clerk training programs including the following:
-When asked if the FDA will certify an existing retailer training program such as the We Card program, the FDA staff responded that they are still reviewing training program comments submitted by various groups and have not yet decided whether to certify an existing program.
-Asked how the FDA will conduct inspections of retail stores, the FDA staff replied that retailers will not know that an inspection is being conducted in their store by an FDA commissioned official. Inspections will include compliance checks by a minor who will attempt to purchase tobacco products. In addition, the inspector will (1) determine whether clerks request proper customer identification and verify customer ages, (2) visually examine the store to ensure that flavored cigarettes and individual cigarettes are not being sold, self-service displays are not present in stores that allow access by minors, and new health warnings are printed on cigarette and smokeless tobacco advertisements. FDA inspections may not begin until after Jan. 1.
-A retailer will not be immediately notified of the compliance check results since the FDA staff at the Center for Tobacco Products must review inspector reports and verify the inspections were conducted according to a uniform set of guidelines.
-The names and locations of stores that pass the inspections will be listed on a new FDA Web site, so that retailers can determine if they have been inspected and whether their store passed.
-NATO staff discussed their concerns about the possibility of retailers being encouraged to pay a bonus or provide paid time off to an employee who successfully passes a compliance check.
-NATO representatives also questioned whether all retailers should conduct internal compliance checks because many retailers may not be financially able to implement such a program.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Deyton stated that he sincerely appreciated the NATO representatives traveling to the FDA offices for the meeting, that the discussion was very informative, and that he and his staff desire to receive the industry’s input on future tobacco regulations. He also agreed to meet with NATO representatives in January to discuss ways NATO can further communicate with its members about FDA regulations.