Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Agents to Check Tobacco Sales as Part of Federal Crackdown

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Agents to Check Tobacco Sales as Part of Federal Crackdown

Article excerpt

The Food and Drug Administration is hiring state inspectors to identify stores that illegally sell tobacco to teen-agers - the first phase of a crackdown that the government will explain in a "national town meeting" Tuesday in 25 cities, including St. Louis.

Most of the cities will hold Tuesday afternoon's interactive broadcast in cinemas, using the theaters' satellite equipment to let the crowds question FDA officials stationed here.

Ten other cities will get separate visits from FDA officials to introduce retailers, local government officials and average citizens to a regulation that takes effect Feb. 28. The new rule requires stores to get photo identification proving young customers are old enough to buy tobacco. But the FDA's outreach is under fire from a congressional opponent, who questions whether the briefings, particularly next Tuesday's video broadcast, are really politics designed to drum up anti-tobacco support. The video features a speech by Vice President Al Gore. "I will appreciate a detailed summary of the costs to the taxpayers of these `town meeting' events," Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., wrote FDA Commissioner David Kessler, giving him until Monday to respond. FDA Associate Commissioner Mitch Zeller called the meetings necessary for confused communities. …

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