FDA puts Walgreens, Circle K on notice for tobacco sales

The FDA on Friday said it initiated enforcement action against some retail locations of Walgreens and Circle K stores for what it called "repeated violations of restrictions on the sale and distribution of tobacco products, including sales of cigars and menthol cigarettes to minors."

The agency said it was seeking orders barring the sale of tobacco for 30 days against two retail locations — stores in Miami, and Charleston, South Carolina.

The FDA singled out Walgreens in a press release, saying the company is “currently the top violator among pharmacies that sell tobacco products, with 22 percent of the stores inspected having illegally sold tobacco products to minors.”

According to a database search, a trio of Dayton Walgreens stores have received warning letters for alleged cigarette sale violations from 2013 to 2017.

No Dayton Walgreens stores were cited in 2018. But warnings were sent to a pair of Kettering stores concerning the sale of e-liquid or vaping products late last year.

According to an FDA complaint, an FDA-commissioned inspector visited that Circle K store in February 2018. During this inspection, the store sold a package of Marlboro cigarettes to someone younger than 18, the FDA charged.

A phone number for that store is no longer in service. A message was left with Circle K’s Great Lakes Division office Saturday morning.

On its corporate web site, Walgreens posted a statement Friday saying it takes the FDA’s actions seriously.

“We take this matter very seriously and have taken a number of steps to help address the important issue of sales of these products to minors, including requiring identification for anyone purchasing tobacco products regardless of age in all of our stores nationwide,” Walgreens said.

“In addition, we are training all of our store team members on the new requirements and strengthening disciplinary actions against store employees who violate the policy,” the statement added. “We recognize the seriousness of this issue and welcome the opportunity to meet with the FDA administrator to discuss all of the steps we are taking since the health and well-being of our customers is our top priority and core mission.”

The FDA says an estimated 4.9 million middle- and high-school students have used tobacco products in the past month.

The agency also decried “an epidemic-level rise in e-cigarette use over the last year” by students in those age groups.

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