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    Retailers, RTDA Fight FDA Regulation of Tobacco

    Group cites excessive administrative and compliance costs.

    BALTIMORE -- The Retail Tobacco Dealers of America (RTDA), the national trade association representing more than 2,500 retail tobacconists and 350 cigar manufacturers, has urged members of Congress to vote against a Senate-passed measure allowing for FDA regulation of the tobacco industry. The RTDA made its position known in a letter distributed to conference committee members.

    "The proposed FDA authority to subject tobacco retailers to the same regulatory standards as manufacturers is unfair and impractical," said RTDA executive director Joe Rowe. "It will change the nature of the retail tobacco business to the point where retailers will be forced to close their stores because of excessive administrative and compliance costs."

    According to the organization's release, the proposed legislation would grant the FDA authority to institute performance standards for the manufacture of cigarettes and other tobacco products. It would allow the FDA to pursue bans on flavored tobacco, and place labeling demands on retail tobacconists based on their repackaging of tobacco products. The program would be funded by fees assessed to manufacturers and importers of tobacco products.

    The group also feels FDA regulation would damage the small businesses of the retail tobacco industry, and that small manufacturers would not withstand the excessive costs associated with implementing the same production standards as the largest cigarette manufacturers. Bans on flavored tobacco will stunt sales in growing market segments, such as flavored cigars. The cost of the program, if borne by retailers and manufacturers as proposed, will also drive consumers away from traditional retail tobacco outlets and into other markets.

    In the letter to Congress, Rowe noted, "We believe the unwanted effect of these regulations will increase the black marketing activities on cigarettes and cigars as well as exacerbate the current counterfeiting problems. [Congress] will in effect decrease the current existing controls on the sale of legal tobacco products."

    The RTDA has urged its members to individually write the conference committee members to defeat the proposed FDA regulation. According to the RTDA, it is one of more than 100 national and regional organizations representing the various segments of the tobacco industry to have either signed or authored letters to Congress urging the defeat of this measure.

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