The FDA today asked a federal judge to temporarily bar a Walgreens and a Circle K store from selling tobacco products while promising a broader crackdown on sales to minors.
The orders are among the strongest actions the agency can take and signal a willingness to take on big retailers that violate state laws governing tobacco and e-cigarette products.
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Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he is requesting a meeting with Walgreens management about its violations, adding he is “deeply disturbed that a single pharmacy chain racked up almost 1,800 violations for selling tobacco products to minors across the country.” Today’s action focused on a Walgreens in Miami and a South Carolina Circle K that each had more than five violations over 36 months.
The FDA said Walgreens was the top violator among pharmacies nationwide, with 22 percent of inspected stores selling illegally to minors. The agency said it issued thousands of warning letters and hundreds of fines to Walgreens and Circle K before blocking the sales.
Some pharmacy giants such as CVS have banned tobacco sales entirely, and Walgreens shareholders have increasingly questioned the practice.
Walgreens, in a statement, said it was training store employees on tobacco sale requirements and strengthening disciplinary actions against those who violate the policy. The company also said it would welcome a meeting with Gottlieb.
While the FDA’s inspections and the no-sale orders focused on cigars and menthol cigarettes, the agency made clear that it could take the same route for e-cigarette sales. The agency last summer issued warning letters to thousands of convenience stores for selling vapor products to minors.
Gottlieb added the agency is evaluating other retailers and could take further action soon. He named Walmart, Dollar General and Rite Aid as other violators.