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    AWMA, Merchants Grocery Co. Host FDA Plant Tour

    Goal was to help regulators understand distributor's role in tobacco distribution.

    FAIRFAX, Va. -- At the invitation of the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA) and AWMA member Merchants Grocery Co., a group of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators toured Merchants' tobacco processing operation in Culpeper, Va., last week.

    The purpose of the visit was to help the FDA officials charged with regulating tobacco clearly understand the distributor's role in the tobacco distribution process.

    Eight officials from the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products participated and were hosted by Merchants' President Elvin Smythers, COO Chris Smythers and other team members. They provided a detailed briefing of the distributor's responsibilities and practices from the time tobacco products are purchased from the manufacturer through distribution to the retail store. They then led a tour of the tobacco processing area in the warehouse, where the FDA representatives viewed the tobacco picking, stamping and shipping operations.

    During the day, Chris Smythers emphasized the importance of tobacco to distributors and the convenience store industry. AWMA President and CEO Scott Ramminger also talked about how additional government requirements that increase distributors' and retailers' costs and must be passed on in the price of the product can result in additional counterfeit, black market and other illegal activity. Ramminger urged the regulators not to impose new reporting requirements that would impose added costs on distributors.

    AWMA thanked the FDA team for taking the time to participate. "For you to do this means a lot to us. It shows a commitment to industry outreach and a willingness to learn about our business," said Anne Holloway, AWMA's vice president of government affairs, who extended the invitation. "Hopefully, this will help as you consider any actions that would affect our industry."

    The American Wholesale Marketers Association is the only international trade organization working on behalf of convenience distributors in the United States. Its distributor members represent more than $85 billion in U.S. convenience product sales.

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