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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Tobacco Products

How FDA Helps Protect Kids from Tobacco

August 22, 2012

As a parent, you work hard to keep your kids safe and protected from potential dangers.  You talk with them about avoiding strangers, looking both ways before crossing the street, and staying away from drugs like tobacco. 

11 youths simultaneously jumping in the air.However, as kids grow up and become more independent, it becomes harder to protect them from tobacco. You’re up against strong influences, including tobacco advertising, smoking in movies, and pressure from their friends and classmates.  Fortunately, when it comes to protecting your kids from the dangers from tobacco, you’ve got an ally on your side—FDA.

FDA has the authority to regulate the manufacture, marketing and distribution of tobacco products under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act).  This means that FDA can protect youth from tobacco by restricting their access to tobacco products, reducing their exposure to tobacco product advertising and promotion, and by making tobacco products less appealing.

Restricting Youth Access to Tobacco Products

FDA restricts youth access to tobacco products by:

  • Prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and smokeless tobacco to youth under the age of 18
  • Prohibiting the sale of cigarette packages with fewer than 20 cigarettes
  • Prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and smokeless tobacco in vending machines, self-service displays, or other impersonal modes of sales, except in very limited situations
  • Prohibiting distribution of free samples of cigarettes and limiting distribution of free samples of smokeless tobacco products

FDA has also conducted 87,279 tobacco retailer inspections to date to ensure retailers are complying with the law.

Reducing Youth Exposure to Tobacco Product Advertising

Image: Chain breaking. Text: BREAK THE CHAIN OF TOBACCO ADDICTION! Help protect kids by PLEDGING to support responsible retailing. TAKE THE PLEDGEFDA restricts the marketing of tobacco to youth by:

  • Prohibiting tobacco brand name sponsorship of any athletic, musical, or other social or cultural event, or any team or entry in those events

Making Tobacco Products Less Appealing to Youth

FDA makes tobacco products less appealing to youth by:

  • Banning cigarettes with fruit and candy flavors that may be more appealing to youth 
  • Banning misleading advertising claims such as “low,” “light,” and “mild” to avoid misperceptions that these products are safer

What does this mean for you as a parent? You can help FDA protect youth from tobacco with resources from our Back-to-School tools.


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