First warning letters sent to 55 retailers over FDA deeming violations
Earlier today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first warning letters to some 55 tobacco retailers for violating the new deeming regulations. In all cases, the shops were caught selling e-cigs, e-liquids, and other tobacco products to minors either through a brick and mortar establishment or via online sales. While the FDA deeming regulations were announced back in May of 2016, they only recently went into effect on August 8. Within one month, the FDA has already issued these 55 warning letters, a sign that the FDA is taking these new regulations very seriously.
According to Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, this combination of businesses was entirely comprised of convenience/drug stores and online merchants, but vape shop owners should still be cautious. This may be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
“Don't make the mistake of thinking the lack of vape shops on the list means all vape shops passed. Statistically, it would be highly unusual for not a single shop to fail. FDA sends out these warnings fairly consistently, so more will be coming.”
Retailer issues apology to vaping industry
Minutes after the story hit the Internet this morning, one retailer caught in the crossfire issued a public apology on social media to the vaping community. A representative for Jvapes E-liquid warns other online retailers of possible flaws in online age verification tools such as Verstad. The spokesperson also tracked down the original sales order that got the company into trouble with the FDA, questioning if the sale was perhaps placed by “an FDA minion.”
“I just wanted to personally apologize to everyone here… for this. We've narrowed down the order that got through, we think, and it's clearly directed to an FDA minion (the billing address is a UPS store, and the shipping address is another mailbox at a parcel store). Why our system didn't flag it, I have no idea, but the e-mail address and phone number on the order don't connect to any kind of social media accounts or anything like that, so clearly they are making up fake e-mail addresses (and potentially even fake names? I don't know) to order online to catch companies snoozing. We thought we had everything in place, and we clearly didn't. Other vendors take this as a warning, no age verification system is fool-proof, and when you're talking about names that have zero online presence, it's going to be really hard for your system to flag them as potential minors unless you have extremely strict filtering in place.”
The Jvapes representative also discusses the possibly of switching to an alternative age verification software, BlueCheck, but also states that all sales are now being manually verified “with extreme prejudice” until the problem is resolved. “It sucks that we have to do this, but again, we don't have much choice at this point.”
Manual verification methods of online sales can include a requirement for a photo ID, researching the consumers’ social media history, or perhaps one-on-one contact via telephone or skype. Unfortunately, all of this extra work takes time and money while also eating away at the vape shops’ ability to provide excellent customer service. Here is a list of the 55 tobacco retailers which received the first warning letters.
(Related Article: THE COCHRAN REVIEW ENCOURAGES USE OF E-CIGS TO STOP SMOKING)