Eight Colorado Springs establishments have received warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since February for violating federal regulations aimed at stemming the sale of cigarettes online products to minors, the agency reported Thursday.

The number represents only about 10 percent of the 85 Colorado Springs supermarkets, liquor and convenience stores and bars checked for compliance through Oct. 31, but it sends a message that the FDA is serious about enforcing regulations drawn up in conjunction with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

Inspections in the U.S. began in November 2010, and more than 1,200 establishments nationwide received warning letters between Dec. 29, 2010, and Oct. 31, the FDA said. They were given 15 business days to explain what they would do to comply with the regulations. Future violations could carry penalties of $250 to $10,000, an FDA spokesman said.

Most of the warnings are for selling cheap cigarettes or other buy cigarettes products to minors, but businesses also were cited for improper placement of cigarette displays and vending machines.

“While we applaud the efforts made by many retail establishments to protect our kids, the fact that our nation’s youth can walk into 1,200 retail locations and still obtain access to these deadly products is 1,200 too many,” Lawrence R. Deyton, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a press release.

The FDA contracts with states to perform compliance checks with buy cigarette online retailers, and awarded more than $24 million to 38 states and the District of Columbia this year.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment received a contract of about $850,000 last year, and a renewal for about the same amount this year, said Celeste Schoenthaler, tobacco program manager for the state. In turn, the state health department has subcontracted with local public health agencies to hire staff to do the investigations.About nine full-time-equivalent positions have been added.

“Our goal is to do about 2,600 inspections a year,” Schoenthaler said.

The manager of one Colorado Springs business that received a letter for selling discount cigarettes to a minor said she was surprised by the compliance check.

“I didn’t know they were doing this,” Karen Olivencia, who manages Everyday on South Tejon Street. “I think it’s probably a good idea. You have to control the age at which people buy cigarettes, so you do have to card.”

She said a clerk misread the birthdate on an ID, and the issue was cleared in the store’s response to the FDA.

“They said, ‘that’s fine; you be more careful and card 27 and under.”

No Fountain or Monument businesses received warning letters.

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