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Fda is naming names in a new report the fda put 15 national retailers on on notice for allegedly selling tobacco products and isa koretz to minors exxon chevron. 7 walgreens walmart and more are on that list and joining us right now is fda commissioner. Dr.
Scott gottlieb. Dr. Gottlieb thank you for being here today what what brought about this auction well whats happening now is were targeting corporate entities and not just individual stories weve taken a lot of actions against individual stores.
Weve done more than a million inspections of individual stores in conjunction with the states looking for violative tobacco sales to minors when we looked across our data. We found large national chains that had a very high rate of recidivism a lot of violations across their individual stores. And theyre implementing corporate policies to condition those sales.
And were now going to hold them accountable at a corporate level for those policies and look at their culture of compliance and some of these stores have substantial violations when in case of walgreens twenty two percent of the stores that we inspected over six thousand stores had violative sales to minors and many with repeat violations. What do you what do you mean. 22.
22 of all cigarettes that their sale. The selling are going to minors 22 percent of all the stores where we did we attempted undercover buys using minors using shoppers that were posing as minors had actually sold the cigarettes to the undercover. Shoppers and so they had violations so we they have about.
10000. Stores nationally we inspected about over 6000 of them and 22 of the 6000. That we inspected actually sold tobacco sales to to minors do you think they were doing this knowingly.
Or just a case of lack of tight enough controls well i hope theyre not doing it knowingly. I think. Its a case of lack of good controls.
You know theres a perception that a lot of the tobacco sales are sort of individual mom and pop stores. But were seeing a lot of violations and repeat violations across large corporate chains. That should know better that should have good corporate compliance.
Policies. Walmart was also on the list of the top 15. A lot of more gas stations.
Some had repeat violation rates or violation rates as high as 44 percent. But you know kroger as walmart was on the list dollar stores. So there were some stores on that list that have the ability to implement good corporate wide.
Compliance practices and impose them on individual stores. And yet. They have a lot of repeat violations and a lot of violations across their individual outlets.
Scott. Whats been the reaction from the companies that youve spoken to if you have spoken into any of them to this point well walgreens. Weve invited in to have a discussion about their corporate policy.
The other stores. We send letters to inquiring about what their policies are but there are actions that we can take now we can send corporate wide warning letters. We can certainly sanction individual stores.
We have a lot of civil penalties that we can impose weve never imposed a criminal sanction. But we certainly have imposed civil sanctions in the past. We have gone as far as issuing for example corporate warning letters in other situations across our regulatory portfolio and something certainly open to us in this situation.
Why are you singling out walgreens. So much why theyve been invited in versus letters to the rest. Youve mentioned them a lot the rates in the 20.
Its not not acceptable of course. But there was others on your list. There which are in the 30 plus percents well walgreens really got us started looking at this because walgreens.
We had a situation about three weeks ago four weeks ago. Now where we send a letter in no tobacco sale order to a walgreens pharmacy outlet. That had a lot of repeat violations and we looked at the data across the walgreens outlet at that time.
I found a very high rate of violations across our entire chain and they are pharmacy. So i think that does factor into this because. The question is does the pharmacy environment create a perception that can either help facilitate those tobacco sales or or create perception to minds of consumers shopping in a pharmacy environment that somehow tobacco might be you know more safe than it otherwise is and then once we looked at walgreens.
We did do the steps of looking across the other corporate chains. And thats the information. Were putting out we put out yesterday.
We looked at the rates across other corporate entities and we found a lot that were hiring the gas stations are much higher. But walgreens is up there you know i think a lot of people have a perception that the gas stations would be higher. Unfortunately.
I dont think people expect walgreens and walmart and other reputable change to have these kinds of rates of violations was there was there any corporate parent. Any retail chain that you found that was noticeably better than the others well its a good question becky. We only looked at the ones that were high now you know maybe well give gold stars as well and look at the big change that that did a good job.
And see what theyre doing i just wonder. If there are corporate practices that work well yeah. No thats exactly i mean.
Thats a great question and and we have to go down down through our data to look at change that are doing a good job. Large change that are doing a good job and in look at what theyre doing right now we want to understand what the chains that are doing a bad job are not doing. But were gonna continue to go through this data.
This is a new again this is a new effort for the agency to look not just at individual stories. Which is what weve historically done. But now look across large national chains you know in a national chain with a big footprint can have a big impact.
If we can get these big change to impose better compliance policies and crack down on these sales. Thats gonna have a big distributed effect and overall availability to miners. What was the sample size.
Dr. Gotlieb. I just want to go back that some of those percentages as you say are way higher than any of us would expect.
But when you say 22 of the undercover purchases. Youve put in place. Whats the sort of sample size.
That was used here these are large sample sizes. So you know weve inspected more than a majority of the. Outlets so in case of.
Walgreens i believe they have around 10000. Outlets. I think we inspected about 6500 and found violations across 22 percent those 6500 so i think its fair to say that this is representative of the overall you know change behavior.
If you will we inspected well more than a majority of their stores. And thats true in most of the other cases. We do a lot of inspections and so we have a pretty good sample size on all these national chains on the flip side.
Dr. Gotlieb. Different issue.
Clearly cigarette sales overall arent increasing the the rate that they did in past decades. Thats partly down to e cigarettes is that something where you see growth of e cigarettes. That youre youre kind of reassured by or they got their own problems attached well look.
We think these cigarettes can be a safer alternative for currently addicted adult smokers to transition fully to an e cigarette off of combustible tobacco. But safer does not mean theyre safe and theyre not safe and we see accruing data that they do cause harm certainly they cause addiction into nikitina they sustain addiction to nicotine. But they also have direct effects on the lung.
Were seeing increasingly increasing amounts of data showing that and so were were really concerned is the rising youth use of these products. There is nothing short of an epidemic of use of these products among kids and we have to find ways to try to close off the axis and appeal these products to kids. While not foreclosing.
The opportunity for adults to use these products as a smoking. Cessation tool and your plan for that is is to try and stop them being sold in convenient stores well a number of things were gonna were seeking to limit access to the flavored products in the convenience stores. The flavored products.
70 of kids who use these cigarettes. Report using flavored products and the flavors of one of the primary reasons that theyre attracted to the e cigarettes and the convenience stores are an outlet. Where theyre getting them so were sneaking to restrict access in the convenience stores of the flavored products and try to move the flavor.
The sales of the flavored products into the adult. Only vaping shops. Which by and large do a better job of restricting access to minors.
The other thing. Were doing right now is reexamining compliance dates on whether or not we call in applications for the e cigarettes. Sooner than we had originally determined to do as a way to make sure that theyre demonstrating with data that theyre actually having the intended public health impact that they purport to have you you .
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