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FDA Announces Retail 'This Is Our Watch' Program

MINNEAPOLIS — At the NATO Regional Education Seminar held Aug. 23, 2017, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products Director Mitch Zeller announced a new FDA retail program called This Is Our Watch.

The primary purpose of the new program is to educate retailers on how to comply with the law and prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors. In his announcement, Zeller acknowledged the importance of retailers complying with the law and keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors to prevent underage use. In addition, Zeller said that even though there are other retail programs such as We Card, retailers have indicated to the FDA that they want the agency to explain how businesses need to comply with federal tobacco regulations.

The FDA’s This Is Our Watch program materials will be shipped at no charge to retailers across the country in November. Materials include a poster to display in stores plus five flyers, with each flyer containing regulation information on the different kinds of tobacco products (for example, cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco and electronic cigarette/vapor products). 

Also, a flip calendar that stands up and is readable from two sides (one customer-facing and one retailer-facing) will assist retailers in verifying legal age. Supplementing these materials will be a retailer checklist for the verifying age of a customer and stickers of various sizes that can be placed on store doors, cash registers and other areas within the store to serve as a reminder to customers that identification will be needed to purchase tobacco products.

As a part of the process to develop This Is Our Watch materials, the FDA interviewed several retailers in three cities. During the interviews, retailers indicated that they are aware of their responsibility to ask for identification from customers, even if they do not know all of the specifics of the tobacco regulations. Also, retailers said they are comfortable asking customers for identification, saying that it is part of their job, they could lose their job if they do not ask for ID, and that “it’s just the right thing to do.”

During the interviews, retailers also responded that they believe the laws are “somewhat” to “very” effective at preventing youth from buying tobacco products, but most retailers thought that the same laws were less effective at preventing youth use of tobacco because they have other ways to obtain tobacco.

If retailers want to ensure that they receive these free FDA materials, they should send an e-mail with their name, store name, email address and store street mailing address to with “Retailer Education Contact” in the subject line. To learn more about the This Is Our Watch program, click here.

Thomas A. Briant


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