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Walgreens, Circle K, 7/11, More On Notice

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Spring of 2019 has not been kind to convenience stores in America, as the Food and Drug Administration has put the retail segment on notice for allegedly selling tobacco products to minors. For the sake of the FDA’s argument, vaping products are included in the warning.

The first wave of warnings came in February, when various Walgreens and Circle K Stores Inc. were specifically named in the FDA’s “enforcement action” of “repeated violations of restrictions on the sale and distribution of tobacco products, including sales of cigars and menthol cigarettes to minors.” Specifically, reported that the FDA is “seeking orders barring” sale of tobacco products for 30 days against locations in Miami, FL, and Charleston, SC. The FDA’s press release on the matter said Walgreens is a “top violator among pharmacies that sell tobacco products, with 22 percent of the stores inspected having illegally sold tobacco products to minors.” Violations tied to the warning letters are reported to have occurred all the way back to 2013, with a recent mystery shopper charge in February 2018 at the Circle K in Dayton. This violation was regarding the sale of Marlboro cigarettes.

Walgreen release a counter-statement on its corporate website: ““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. 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. 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.”

Fast-forward to the beginning of March, where the FDA again singled out Walgreens and added 7/11 and other retailers to its warnings, reported the Washington Examiner. This time e-cigarettes were specifically mentioned in the FDA commissioner’s statement. In all, 15 chains were mentioned, including gas stations and convenience stores. Walgreens again was in the hot seat, receiving 1,800 violations. The FDA has requested a meeting with Walgreens, who allegedly has a 22 percent rate of illegal tobacco products sales across 6,350 stores. The FDA told the Examiner that it plans on asking retailers if they are “selling e-cigarette products in violation of FDA regulations.” Current consequence for selling to minors is a fine, but due to Gottlieb’s recent proposal letter, that may be changing in the near future.