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Tobacco changes limit businesses

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By Steve Doyle

Tobacco users are finding some new packaging and new restrictions when they stop by their favorite stores these days.

New federal regulations went into effect on Tuesday that places severe limitations on how tobacco manufacturers can name and advertise some of their products, and some stores also are having to move items to more restricted locations.

It’s all part of the sweeping legislation that was passed last year to give the Food and Drug Administration broad power to regulate the sale of tobacco.

First and foremost among that is that tobacco companies no longer can advertise their products as being “light,” “mild,” or “low tar.”

And that’s created sort of a cat-and-mouse game with consumers who prefer those types of products.

And there also is the requirement that consumers under 18 can’t have open access to tobacco products.

At Cox’s Smokers Outlet in Village Plaza in Shelbyville, managers have placed signs outside the door that alert shoppers that they must be 18 to enter.

“We put up the sign on the door,” Manager Michelle Peyton said. “Adults only. Must be 18 to enter. That’s new and is required by the FDA.”

Tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris USA have countered with consistent colors on packaging and even printed messages to let consumers know that though they can’t call brands by their old names, the cigarettes remain the same.

Peyton said her shoppers haven’t been confused.

“There’s red and blue and gold,” she said. “We explained it to them, and they already knew, they watch the news.

“They’re pretty much used to it. They’ll come, and they’ll ask.”

In stores that have more open traffic of shoppers of all ages, tobacco products – including roll-your-own – must be under restricted access.

Merchants received directives that told them they must remove and destroy point-of-sale materials and temporary displays for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products and “light” products.

 “We haven’t had any trouble so far,” said Vickie Goodlett of Fast Lane in Shelbyville. “We have to get the products for them, but then we’re drivethru anyway.”

Quick Cigarettes in Simpsonville may be the most directly affected outlet it in the county because it distributes tobacco products for interstate sales.

A person who answered the phone at the office only laughed at questions and said “it’s directed at us.” She referred questions to the company’s owner, who did not return a phone message.