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At yesterday’s meeting with the U.S. House Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss FDA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb discussed the Agency’s regulation of the tobacco industry and noted, among other things, that when all the requirements for the newly deemed products, including vapor products, went into effect last year, FDA now has authority to inspect and impose GMP standards and enforce age restrictions.  Gottlieb indicated that FDA would be “stepping into this fight in a vigorous way in the coming weeks.”

Being prepared for an FDA inspection is critical to maintaining compliance.  Just a few weeks ago, FDA’s recently-issued Request for Proposal (RFP), Vape Inspection Services (FDA-RFP-18-1190619), was extended on March 22, 2018 to allow for additional time for FDA to receive, review and consider responses from government contractors submitting bids to conduct inspections of establishments engaged in the retail sale of FDA-regulated tobacco products.

The RFP provides valuable insight into the Agency’s current thinking with regard to the scope of inspections that are expected to begin shortly, as mandated by the Tobacco Control Act.

Specifically, the RFP indicates that the contractor(s) shall, in the course of a facility inspection:

  • Complete and provide FDA with a signed Form FDA 482 (“Notice of Inspection”);
  • Complete an inspection form, detailing:
    • Administrative information;
    • The scope of the facility’s business (e.g., manufacturing, retail, import/export of products);
    • A list of potential violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; and
  • Be prepared to testify on behalf of FDA in any regulatory or judicial proceeding.

The RFP focuses extensively on the type of evidence collection and storage permissible under the Agency’s guidelines – including the collection of photographic and physical evidence.  The RFP further requires that the contractor complete required Agency training regarding the permissibility of collecting reports, data, documents, and photos (including limitations on Confidential Business Information (CBI), sales data, and personnel data).

The RFP describes the scheduling of inspections on a continuing, quarterly basis, in accordance with designated quotas.  The program allocates funding for one full-time program manager, approximately 10 program coordinators, and 20 inspectors (based on 2,080 annual hours per full-time equivalent).

Keller and Heckman continues to monitor developments relating to FDA’s forthcoming inspections of tobacco and vapor manufacturing establishments, and, to help companies prepare, recently launched the Audit and Inspection Program (AIP).  The AIP provides establishments with an opportunity to conduct advance, client-confidential, independent auditing to identify and remedy any deficiencies.  In addition, the AIP provides establishments with training regarding FDA’s inspection authority, the permissibility of Agency collection of business information, and optional environmental and occupational health and safety components.  For additional details on the AIP Program and to register, click here.

On May 2, 2018 (3:00 PM ET), attorneys Azim Chowdhury and Daniel Rubenstein will be participating in a free webinar hosted by the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), “The FDA is Coming – Are You Ready” and will be discussing Keller and Heckman’s AIP and how manufacturers and retailers can prepare for an FDA inspection. Register for the webinar here.

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The vapor device industry has been requesting FDA for years to exempt devices from the Tobacco Control Act Section 904(a)(1) ingredient listing requirement, respectfully arguing, among other things, that the information required for non-consumable hardware products and components provides no meaningful information to FDA that would help it protect the public health.[1]  On April 13, 2018, just 25 days before the reporting deadline for large manufacturers of deemed tobacco products, FDA published a revised Guidance for Industry: Listing of Ingredients in Tobacco Products.  FDA now intends to enforce the ingredient listing requirement only with respect to those tobacco product components or parts that are made or derived from tobacco, or contain ingredients that are burned, aerosolized or ingested (i.e., consumed) during use.  Although the revised guidance is late – and comes after many companies have spent considerable time and funds to comply with the reporting requirement – it is welcome news for the industry.

The ingredient listing deadlines for the applicable components and parts of deemed finished tobacco products[2], however, have not changed – large manufacturers of such products still have only until May 8, 2018, while small-scale manufacturers[3] have until November 8, 2018.

Manufacturers of vapor devices and finished deemed tobacco product components and parts should keep in mind that FDA’s decision to exempt such products from ingredient listing does not change the fact that these products are still subject to FDA’s premarket authorization requirements.  It remains the case, for example, that any new vapor device intended for introduction into the U.S. market after August 8, 2016 requires Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) authorization (which requires ingredient information, along with a significant amount of additional data) before it can be marketed, and any devices on the market on August 8, 2016 have until August 8, 2022 before PMTAs are due, and can remain on the market after that date only if PMTAs for the products are accepted by FDA for review.

Components and Parts Subject to Ingredient Listing 

The revised guidance provides examples of “consumable” components and parts that still require ingredient listing including, but not limited to:

  • Cigar filler;
  • Cigar binder;
  • Cigar wrapper;
  • Pipe tobacco;
  • Waterpipe tobacco;
  • E-liquids;
  • Cigarette tobacco;
  • Cigarette paper;
  • Smokeless tobacco;
  • Roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco;
  • RYO rolling paper;
  • RYO tube; and
  • Cigarette filter that contains any ingredient that burns, aerosolizes, or is ingested during use (e.g., cigarette filter with menthol because the menthol will aerosolize during cigarette smoking).

Ingredients of tobacco product components and parts that are not made or derived from tobacco or consumed during use, e.g., pipes, hookah apparatus, vapor devices, etc., need not be submitted to FDA.  Examples of components or parts for which FDA does not intend to enforce the ingredient listing submission requirement at this time include, but are not limited to:

  • Electrical components including, but not limited to, batteries, charging systems, circuit boards, wiring, and connectors;
  • System software;
  • Digital display, lights, and buttons to adjust settings;
  • Connection adapters;
  • Cartomizers;
  • Coils;
  • Wicks;
  • Tanks;
  • Mouthpieces;
  • Pipes;
  • Waterpipes;
  • Hoses;
  • Bowls;
  • Charcoal; and
  • Cigarette filter that does not contain any ingredient that is burned, aerosolized, or ingested during tobacco use.

Based on this, e-liquid manufacturers need only provide ingredient information on the liquid component of their products, not other non-consumable components such as bottles, drippers and packaging.  FDA expects to receive ingredient information for these non-consumable components and parts during its pre-market review of finished tobacco products (e.g., Premarket Tobacco Applications and Substantial Equivalence Reports).

Single Submissions for Multiple Products

With respect to consumable components and parts, the revised guidance also now makes clear that there are a number of situations where ingredients for multiple products may be listed together under a single submission, provided all of the different brands/subbrands and product sizes for the associated products in the submission are identified.  Examples of situations allowing a single ingredient listing for multiple products are provided in the guidance as follows:

  • Identical per weight composition of ingredients for tobacco products sold under multiple brands/subbrands:
    • Pipe tobacco with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold under 30 brands/subbrands;
    • E-liquids with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold under 200 brands/subbrands; and
    • Waterpipe (shisha) tobacco with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold under 15 brands/subbrands.
  • Identical per weight composition of ingredients for tobacco products sold in multiple product sizes:
    • E-liquid with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold in volumes of 30mL, 60mL, 90mL or sold in a range of product sizes (e.g., 20mL-100mL);
    • Pipe tobacco with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold in product sizes of 5g, 10g, 50g;
    • Waterpipe (shisha) tobacco with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold in product sizes of 100g, 200g, 500g; and
    • Pouched snus with identical per weight composition of ingredients sold in a can of 12 snus sachets or a can of 15 snus sachets.

For open-system e-liquids more specifically, the revised guidance indicates that manufacturers can satisfy the ingredient listing requirement by providing one listing that corresponds to multiple products if the manufacturer sells e-liquids that (1) are identical in chemical composition to one another or (2) are identical in chemical composition to one another except the quantities of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and/or nicotine differ.8 For example:

  • E-liquids with identical nicotine concentrations (e.g., 0.5 mg/ml nicotine) but varying PG/VG ratios (e.g., 20/80, 50/50, 80/20) and all other ingredients having identical per weight composition.
  • E-liquids with identical PG/VG ratio (e.g., 50/50) but different nicotine concentrations (e.g., 0.5, 1.0 1.5 mg/ml) and all other ingredients having identical per weight composition.
  • E-liquids with varying PG/VG ratios (e.g., 20/80, 50/50, 80/20) and different nicotine concentrations (e.g., 0.5, 1, 2 mg/mL) with all other ingredients having identical per weight composition.

However, changes to relative ratios of ingredients or to the quality or type of an ingredient will require separate submissions.  For e-liquids, the revised guidance provides several examples of when separate submissions to correspond to each brand/subbrand of a product are required:

  • E-liquids that have identical PG/VG chemical structure, but the nicotine chemical structure is different (e.g., moving from free nicotine to nicotine salt), even with identical per weight composition of all other ingredients.
  • E-liquids that have identical PG/VG chemical structure and identical nicotine chemical structure but where the per weight composition of all other ingredients is different in any way (e.g., increased amount of cherry flavor #1 added when all other ingredient ratios stay the same).
  • E-liquids where the grade of the PG/VG is different in any way (e.g., percent purity changes).

For more detailed background on the ingredient listing information needed and submission process, see here.

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If you need assistance with ingredient listing or for more information regarding other regulatory obligations facing tobacco product manufacturers, distributors, importers, or retailers, please contact Azim Chowdhury at chowdhury@khlaw.com or 202-434-4230.

 

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[1]           See e.g., comment to the FDA Ingredient Listing Guidance document submitted by Shenzhen E-Vapor Industry Association (SEVIA) in May 2017, available at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FDA-2009-D-0524-0034.

[2]              The term “finished tobacco product” means a tobacco product, including all components and parts, sealed in final packaging intended for consumer use. Components and parts that are sold separately from other tobacco products are finished tobacco products if they are sold in final packaging intended for consumer use.

[3]           The term small-scale tobacco product manufacturer means a manufacturer of any regulated tobacco product that employs 150 or fewer full-time equivalent employees and has annual total revenues of $5 million or less. FDA considers a manufacturer to include each entity that it controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with.

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Per Section 904(a)(1) of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA), one of the core requirements for manufacturers, including manufacturers of deemed tobacco products such as e-liquid, vapor devices, cigars and hookah, is the requirement to submit to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a list of all ingredients that are “added by the manufacturer to the tobacco, paper, filter, or other part of each tobacco product….”  Unlike the Registration and Product Listing requirement, which only applies to domestic U.S. manufacturing establishments, ingredient listing is required for all finished deemed tobacco products marketed in the United States, regardless of where the product was produced.[1]

Upcoming Deadlines

When the Deeming Rule became effective on August 8, 2016, FDA’s initial compliance policy required large deemed tobacco product manufacturers (i.e., manufacturers earning over $5M in annual revenues or who have over 150 full-time employees) to submit ingredient lists to FDA for all of their finished products by February 8, 2017; small-scale manufacturers had until August 8, 2017.  Over the course of 2017 these deadlines were extended several times for various reasons; now, large-scale manufacturers have until May 8, 2018 and small-scale manufacturers have until November 8, 2018.[2]  While it is always possible FDA could further push the deadlines back, we think it is unlikely to do so for ingredient listing.

Information Required

The ingredient listing process can be complicated and time consuming, particularly for manufacturers of e-liquids and vapor devices, for whom FDA has provided little specific guidance, and that may have hundreds of SKUs or more.  Broadly speaking, ingredient listing reports require the following:

  • Contact information for the manufacturer/submitter and U.S. agent;
  • A product list (similar to the product list U.S. manufacturers had to prepare for establishment registration);
  • For each product, a list of “components”;
  • For each component, a list of “ingredients” (e.g., single chemical substances and complex purchased ingredients); and
  • Specific information regarding each ingredient (e.g., quantity, ingredient number, SKU number, supplier information for complex purchased ingredients, etc.).

For more detailed background on the information needed to prepare ingredient listing reports, see our previous postings.

Submission Process

Although companies can submit ingredient listing reports manually to the CTP Document Control Center using the paper Form 3742, FDA encourages electronic submission through the CTP Portal.  This should not be confused with the separate FDA Unified Registration and Listing System (FURLS), which is only for U.S. Establishment Registration and Product Listing.  Obtaining CTP Portal access typically takes a few weeks, so you should apply for an account as soon as possible if you do not yet have one.

Only files that are packaged using FDA’s eSubmitter software can be submitted through the CTP Portal (download eSubmitter here). The eSubmitter tool does not transmit data over the Internet, but resides locally on your computer along with any output files, allowing you to work on a submission offline, save, and continue later.  Once a submission is complete, eSubmitter “packages” (i.e., compiles) the submission into a format that can be securely submitted through the CTP Portal.

Preparing Reports in eSubmitter

The eSubmitter tool contains templates for various FDA required submissions, including health documents and ingredient listing reports, among other things.

Of note, on March 5, 2018, FDA Center for Tobacco Products published a new set of instructions which provides a step-by-step guide on using eSubmitter to list ingredients in tobacco products.  At the same time, eSubmitter was updated to include two new options for preparing ingredient listing reports, which are discussed in the new instructions.

The first new option (“Option (c)”) allows for the use of a single spreadsheet to input ingredient information for all of a company’s products, rather than using multiple spreadsheets (Option (b)). The Option (c) spreadsheets come in both e-liquid specific (download here) and any tobacco templates (download here).

The second new option to attach your own spreadsheet (“Option (d)”) permits manufacturers to create and submit their own ingredient listing files in any format they wish.  While FDA requests that a spreadsheet be generated, eSubmitter will support the submission of a number of file types: .pdf, .jpg, .gif, .tif, .avi, .wmv, .xpt, .xml, .sgml, .mol, .xls, .xlsx, .csv or .txt.

New eSubmitter Spreadsheets

The new Option (c) spreadsheets require all the same information as before, but has several unique differences compared to the original, multiple-spreadsheet method.  For example, now combinations of flavors and other additives can be saved as “master recipes” that can be added to any e-liquid formulations that contain it, along with levels of nicotine, PG and VG, making it easier to list ingredients for e-liquids that differ only in concentration of nicotine or other ingredients.  In addition, the Option (c) spreadsheets simplifiy the process of inputting component information, making it easier to, for example, “link” different bottle sizes to a formulation without re-inputting all the ingredient information. The new spreadsheet is also less cumbersome to complete and, so far, appears not to have as many bugs that often made importing the original tobacco ingredient spreadsheets into eSubmitter an onerous process (see our May 2017 webinar here which demonstrates how to use the original, multiple-spreadsheet method in eSubmitter).

E-liquid manufacturers should also keep in mind that the Option (c) e-liquid spreadsheet can only be used for the e-liquid component of a product; information regarding the other components of the finished product (e.g., bottle, cap/dripper, label, packaging, etc.) will need to be entered separately (either manually in eSubmitter or with a separate spreadsheet).

Manufacturers of vapor devices and hardware components, many of whom have argued that the current “ingredient” listing requirement and process does not make sense for such products[3], will also need to report ingredients to FDA either manually in eSubmitter, using the original multiple spreadsheet method, the Option (c) spreadsheet for products other than e-liquids, or by developing and submitting their own files as attachments using Option (d).

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While the new eSubmitter spreadsheet options could make submitting ingredients to FDA easier for some manufacturers, the process still presents a significant time commitment.  Companies should not hesitate to start the process sooner rather than later.

If you need assistance with ingredient listing or for more information regarding other regulatory obligations facing deemed tobacco product manufacturers, distributors, importers, or retailers, please contact Azim Chowdhury at chowdhury@khlaw.com or 202-434-4230.

 

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[1]              A finished tobacco product is defined in the Deeming Rule and FDA guidance as “a tobacco product, including all components and parts, sealed in final packaging intended for consumer use. See FDA, Guidance for Industry (Revised)*: Listing of Tobacco Products, pg. 5 (Nov. 2017).

[2]           See FDA, Guidance for Industry (Revised)*: Extension of Certain Tobacco Product Compliance Deadlines Related to the Final Deeming Rule (Nov. 2017).

[3]           See e.g., comment to the FDA Ingredient Listing Guidance document submitted by Shenzhen E-Vapor Industry Association (SEVIA) in May 2017, available at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FDA-2009-D-0524-0034.

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February 26, 2018 – Keller and Heckman LLP is pleased to announce the introduction of its Audit and Inspection Program (AIP) for Tobacco and Vapor Product Manufacturing Establishments.

The AIP was developed in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) inspection authority under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA or the Act), as amended by the Tobacco Control Act, which provides that FDA shall inspect each factory, warehouse, establishment, or vehicle in which tobacco products, including deemed tobacco products, are manufactured, processed, packed, or stored.  Pursuant to Sections 704 and 905 of the Act, FDA is directed to inspect every establishment at least once every two years.

Audit and Inspection Program

Keller and Heckman’s experienced team of attorneys and scientists will provide a comprehensive, on-site training and facility auditing program designed to help your company adequately prepare for an FDA inspection.  As part of the AIP, companies can expect:

  • An introductory presentation and memorandum detailing FDA’s inspection authority, what to expect during an inspection, and how to adequately prepare for – and respond to – an FDA inspection;
  • A full facility audit, consisting of a complete mock-inspection; and
  • A written post-inspection report detailing the overall readiness of the facility for an FDA inspection, including a list of specific recommendations and opportunities for improvement*

Keller and Heckman’s AIP program is designed to provide companies that are involved in any aspect of the tobacco or vapor product supply chain with confidence that their facilities are operating in accordance with FDA requirements.  The AIP will consider a broad range of inspection activities, including: recordkeeping, product labeling, product samples, requests for video/audio/photographic recordings, standard operating procedures, cleanliness and sanitation, inventory control, and personnel interviews.

Supplemental Environmental and OSHA Compliance Components

In addition to FDA compliance, the AIP offers companies the option to include supplemental compliance training and auditing focusing on environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and requirements – efficiently leveraging the FDA mock inspection and full facility audit.

  • Environmental: The AIP program will offer companies the opportunity to add an additional training and compliance component focusing on federal and state environmental and waste management regulations. Specifically, nicotine-bearing products may be subject to regulation under the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) when disposed.  State regulations governing dangerous or industrial wastes also could apply.  This component will provide an overview of how nicotine in tobacco-based products are regulated differently than when found in e-cigarettes and other vaping products, and will provide valuable information regarding companies’ obligations in responding to these additional requirements.  For more information on environmental requirements, see here.
  • Occupational Health and Safety: Participants in the AIP program will also have the opportunity to add an additional training and compliance component focusing on federal and state Occupational Safety and Health laws. OSHA recordkeeping requirements apply to all employers, except very small businesses.  Most other OSHA standards apply to all employers, regardless of size.  This component will provide companies with a review of existing policies and practices, and will recommend specific actions designed to bring companies into compliance with regulations in areas relevant to the industry, including: personal protective equipment, emergency plans, fire protection, and hazard communication (g., labeling and safety data sheets).

Pre-Registration

Pre-registration for the AIP is available immediately by filling out the form available here:

Tobacco and Vapor Product Manufacturing Establishment Audit and Mock Inspection Program Pre-Registration Form

The completed pre-registration form can be E-mailed to chowdhury@khlaw.com, faxed to (202) 434-4646, or mailed to:

Keller and Heckman LLP
Attn: Azim Chowdhury
1001 G Street NW, Suite 500 West
Washington, D.C. 20001

Upon receipt of your pre-registration form, Keller and Heckman will provide your company with a formal written proposal and cost-estimate to conduct on-site training and mock inspection at your facility.  Scheduling is generally available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

*The written post-inspection report is covered by any existing attorney-client relationship between Keller and Heckman and the Company, and is generally not subject to discovery.  The recommendations set forth in the post-inspection report are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute any warranties or guarantees regarding the outcome of an actual FDA, EPA or OSHA inspection.  Keller and Heckman’s attorneys remain available and look forward to the opportunity to assist with any post-inspection activities or questions following completion of the written report.

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On February 20, 2018 several organizations filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of Plaintiff-Appellants Nicopure Labs’ and the Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition’s appeal in the Deeming Rule challenge now pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm and policy center dedicated to defending and promoting free enterprise, individual rights, limited government, and the rule of law. In particular, WLF has devoted substantial resources over the years to promoting the free-speech rights of consumers and merchants in the marketplace, appearing before many federal courts in raising First Amendment issues. WLF has actively litigated First Amendment limits on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to restrict manufacturer speech.  In its amicus brief, WLF argues that FDA’s regulation of the vapor industry unjustifiably restricts truthful, non-misleading speech in violation of the First Amendment. By requiring vapor product companies to obtain FDA’s preapproval of “modified risk” claims before communicating their products’ uncontested health and related benefits to prospective consumers, the Deeming Rule effectively bans legally protected speech. The Rule will also harm those members of the public trying to quit smoking, who have a right to receive truthful information about comparatively safer alternatives to combustible tobacco.  Download the full brief here.

NJOY develops, imports, and distributes e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery products, and is committed to helping adult smokers switch completely from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes.  Like WLF, NJOY’s amicus brief addresses the First Amendment issue, i.e., “a government-imposed gag order” that blocks NJOY from truthfully describing its products to consumers.  Specifically, NJOY argues that FDA’s MRTP preclearance requirement is an unconstitutional speech-licensing regime that silences e-cigarette manufacturers and perpetuates misinformation about the comparative health risks of e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes, jeopardizing the health of millions of smokers. Download the full brief here.

The State of Iowa also filed an amicus brief because it felt “compelled to defend its strong interest in reducing the number of Iowans who smoke combustible tobacco products,” noting that Iowa advocates for a harm-reduction approach and that “the difference between combustible cigarettes and non-combustibles, like e-cigarettes, is dramatic”.  Iowa argues that the MRTP process places a roadblock in the path of public health advocates and frustrates harm-reduction objectives by requiring pre-market review of truthful, non-misleading modified risk claims – which are protected by the First Amendment.  While Iowa supports rules that require pre-market review of any modified risk claim offered for a combustible tobacco product, generalized modified risk claims for e-cigarettes are different because they are true – and the MRTP process undermines momentum towards critical harm reduction by effectively silencing them. Download the full brief here.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization with an all-volunteer board and a grassroots membership, is dedicated to ensuring the availability of reduced harm alternatives to smoking and to providing smokers and non-smokers alike with honest information about those alternatives so that they can make informed choices.  CASAA submitted an amicus brief to provide helpful information to the Court about the importance of flavors and sampling in connection with consumers (a) receiving information about products and (b) making a successful transition from smoking to vaping.  The brief discusses the critical need for consumers to receive truthful information from manufacturers and retailers about the low-risk nature of vapor products.  Download the full brief here.

Last, but certainly not least, Clive Bates, Director of The Counterfactual and former Director of the UK’s primary anti-smoking non-profit Action on Smoking in Health, as well as additional public health advocates Philip Alcabes, Scott Ballin, Konstantinos Farsalinos, Bill Godshall, Jacques Le Houezec, Bernd Mayer, Jeff Nesbit, Joel Nitzkin, Riccardo Polosa, Sally L. Satel, Michael B. Siegel, Jeff Stier, and David Sweanor, submitted an amicus brief because of their concern that excessively burdensome or restrictive regulation of e-cigarettes by FDA will have unintended consequences, effectively protecting the combustible cigarette market, increasing smoking and causing harm to health. The authors argue that vaping is proving highly beneficial to the health of millions of American adults as a low-risk alternative to cigarette smoking – which has fallen rapidly and reached record lows since vaping was introduced.  FDA’s approach to regulating e-cigarettes failed to account for the likelihood of the risks of harmful unintended consequences arising from its own interventions in the e-cigarette market.  Indeed, the authors make clear that the costs of the current regulatory approach are likely to overwhelm the claimed benefits, and a failure to account for them undermines the Deeming Rule.  Download the full brief here.

FDA’s reply brief in the appeal is due by April 18, 2018. We will keep you updated on the progress of the appeal.

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On February 12, 2018, Nicopure Labs, LLC and the Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition[i] (the Appellants) filed their opening brief in the appeal of last year’s decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which ruled in favor of FDA in the first lawsuit challenging aspects of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA) and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Deeming Rule as they are being applied to the vapor industry. In the brief, the Appellants respectfully disagree with the lower court’s conclusions and believe that both the law and the facts compel a different result.

Specifically, Appellants argue that (1) the Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) provision of the TCA, as well as the ban on free samples of vapor products, violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and (2) FDA was obligated to consider a less burdensome Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) process for vapor products while still protecting the public health. We summarize these issues in turn below, and you can download the full brief here.

1. Modified Risk Claims and Free Sample Ban

The MRTP provision in Section 911 of the TCA prohibits vapor companies from, among other things, representing without FDA authorization that their products: (i) present a lower risk of disease or is less harmful than another tobacco product; or (ii) contain a reduced level of, or is free from, a substance, or that exposure to a substance is reduced or eliminated.  In other words, this means that vapor companies require explicit FDA approval to tell adult consumers, for example, that their products do not contain certain substances (“no diacetyl” or “no allergens”), that they are unlike more dangerous cigarettes because they have “no tar” or produce “no combusted smoke,” and they pose less health risk to individuals than smoking cigarettes (as FDA itself has publicly stated numerous times). Obtaining such MRTP authorization is an incredibly onerous and expensive process (which no company has been able to achieve yet) that requires applicants to demonstrate that their product will:

(i) significantly reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease to individual users; and

(ii) benefit the health of the population as a whole taking into account both users of tobacco products and persons who do not currently use tobacco products.

21 USC § 387k(g)(1). As to the latter “population effects” prong of the standard, applicants must establish not only the relative health risks of the subject product, but also the potential impact the product will have on overall tobacco use initiation and cessation. 21 USC § 387k(g)(4).

In reality, this imposes a prophylactic ban on MRTP claims and violates the First Amendment because it effectively prohibits truthful, non-misleading statements by vapor companies that convey information needed by adult consumers to make informed purchasing decisions and switch away from cigarettes to less risky vapor products. The First Amendment protects the rights of consumers in the marketplace to obtain product-related information so they can make educated decisions.

But vapor companies cannot make these claims without prior FDA approval and, in all likelihood, will never be able to because the Agency has never approved a claim under the stringent and cost prohibitive MRTP standard. As such, and as detailed in the brief, the MRTP process fails to meet the “intermediate scrutiny” standard required when the government regulates commercial speech.  Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n of N.Y., 447 U.S. 557 (1980).

Similarly, the free sample ban violates the First Amendment because it prohibits adult consumers from trying different vapor products and obtaining valuable information about a novel product category that will help them transition away from cigarettes. Sampling is an “expressive” act that is protected speech. As FDA conceded, sampling conveys information that allows consumers to make individualized choices and change their purchasing behavior. This is important where, as FDA also acknowledged, smokers may have a better chance of switching to vapor products if they can continually sample a variety of e-liquid flavors. Indeed, numerous consumer surveys and other data indicate that smokers rely heavily on flavor variability and the opportunity to try different e-liquids and devices when considering vaping as a substitute for deadly smoking. But, as set forth in the brief, neither Congress nor FDA demonstrated that the free sample ban survives intermediate scrutiny.

2. PMTA Process

Since the Deeming Rule took effect on August 8, 2016, the restrictions on vapor products have been even more onerous than combustible cigarettes, most of which are grandfathered and exempt from FDA’s premarket review requirements. While FDA’s announcement last year for a “comprehensive regulatory plan to shift trajectory of tobacco-related disease, death” acknowledged, among other things, the tobacco harm reduction potential of vapor products and extended the compliance policy deadline for PMTAs for pre-August 8, 2016 vapor products to August 8, 2022, the reality is that safety advances and innovation have been stifled, and the industry still faces effectively being banned in a few short years.

In this regard, it is critical to recognize that the TCA has an overarching goal of ensuring that adult smokers continue to have access to innovative, less risky tobacco products. Despite this, and even though the Agency acknowledged that forcing vapor products to complete a one-size-fits-all PMTA process would eliminate over 95% of manufacturers (along with product variety those companies supply), FDA failed to tailor the PMTA process to less risky vapor products.  Indeed, to date FDA has only approved one PMTA (which was not for a vapor product) and, as provided in the brief, Deeming Rule commenters submitted compelling evidence showing the PMTA will be time and cost prohibitive. FDA was obligated, therefore, not just to extend the filing deadlines, but to consider a less burdensome PMTA process for vapor products (e.g., one that does not require long-term, clinical or epidemiological studies for each vapor product) while still protecting the public health.

FDA’s reply brief is due by April 18, 2018. We will keep you updated on the progress of the appeal.

The Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition and Nicopure Labs are represented in the appeal by Keller and Heckman LLP Partners Eric Gotting and Azim Chowdhury. For more information on the lawsuit and to contribute to the appeal efforts, visit www.r2bsmokefree.org.

[i]  The Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition trade association members supporting the appeal include the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association (AEMSA), American Vaping Association (AVA), Georgia Smoke Free Association (GSFA), Kentucky Smoke Free Association (KYSFA), Louisiana Vaping Association (LAVA), Maryland Vape Professionals, LLC (MVP), New Jersey Vapor Retailers Association (NJVRA), Ohio Vapor Trade Association (OHVTA), Tennessee Smoke Free Association (TSFA), and the Shenzhen E-Vapor Industry Association (SEVIA).  For a full list of members see www.r2bsmokefree.org.

Photo of Azim ChowdhuryPhoto of Adam Susser

Azim Chowdhury and Adam Susser will participate in the FDLI Tobacco Products and Regulation and Policy Conference, which will take place October 26-27, 2017 in Washington, DC.

This KH sponsored event will bring together public health advocates, researchers, manufacturers, lawyers, consumer interests, entrepreneurs, governmental agencies and others to effectively regulate the broad spectrum of tobacco and nicotine products in the US and globally.

Azim will participate on the panel “The Future of Deeming Regulations: Policy and Litigation” which will engage in discussions about the future of the deeming regulations, including issues pertaining to litigation, regulations, legislation, and the pros and cons of extending the implementation dates to 2021 and 2022. Attention will also be given to the appropriate use of flavoring in both e-cigarettes and cigars and how it can be ensured that children and youth are not being encouraged to use these products.

Adam will present on “Overview of Tobacco Law and Regulation” during the Introduction to U.S. Tobacco Law and Regulation seminar which will explore the essentials of tobacco law and regulation including the Deeming Rule, Premarket Tobacco Applications (PMTAs) and Modified Risk Tobacco Product Applications (MRTPAs), advertising and promotion, compliance, enforcement, and related issues.

For more information on this event, click here.

Photo of Azim ChowdhuryPhoto of Eric Gotting

On August 30, 2017, the Right to be Smoke-Free (RSF) Coalition, a non-profit, industry-led trade association of vapor businesses dedicated to advocating for reasonable and responsible laws and regulations, joined Nicopure Labs LLC in appealing the recent decision in Nicopure Labs, LLC and Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition et al. v. Food and Drug Administration et al., Civ. No. 1:16-cv-0878-ABJ to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  The lawsuit challenges aspects of FDA’s Deeming Regulation and the Tobacco Control Act as they are being applied to the vapor industry.  The RSF Coalition respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by the lower court and believes that both the law and the facts compel a different result.

While FDA’s recent announcement acknowledging the tobacco harm reduction potential of vapor products and extending the compliance policy deadline for Premarket Tobacco Product Applications (PMTAs) for pre-August 8, 2016 vapor products to August 8, 2022 is welcome news, the RSF Coalition believes that there remains much worth fighting for on behalf of the industry – which still faces effectively being banned in a few short years.

“There is no greater risk to public health than traditional combustible tobacco use-related morbidity and mortality”, said Scott Eley, RSF Coalition Director and Co-Founder of coalition member, NicQuid. “We believe vapor products can help make tobacco-related death and disease part of America’s past and not it’s future. While we fully support all efforts to prevent access to vapor products to kids, we would hate to see a future where FDA’s overly burdensome regulatory approach prohibits access to these products by adult smokers looking for an alternative to their tobacco addiction.”

Since the Deeming Rule took effect on August 8, 2016, the restrictions on vapor products have been even more onerous than combustible cigarettes, most of which are grandfathered and exempt from FDA’s premarket review requirements. Among other things, vapor companies today cannot legally introduce new products, or improve the safety and quality of their existing products, without FDA PMTA authorization; distribute free samples to adults; or make truthful statements about the relative safety of their products.

The RSF Coalition and Nicopure Labs are being represented in the appeal by Keller and Heckman LLP Partners Eric Gotting and Azim Chowdhury. For more information on the lawsuit and to contribute to the RSF Coalition appeal efforts, visit www.r2bsmokefree.org.

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On Friday July 28, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its new “comprehensive regulatory plan to shift trajectory of tobacco-related disease, death” that refocuses the Agency’s implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) and the Deeming Rule. FDA’s new strategy appears to be moving away from its “one-size-fits-all” approach to tobacco product regulation by recognizing that a “continuum of risk” of tobacco and nicotine-containing products exists. While FDA has indicated that its long-term plan is to, among other things, potentially lower nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, it also made major changes to its compliance policy for recently “deemed” tobacco products that immediately impacts manufacturers of e-vapor, e-liquid, cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco products.

Background: FDA Compliance Policy for Deemed Tobacco Products

The Deeming Rule became effective on August 8, 2016, extending FDA’s tobacco product authority over newly deemed products and subjecting manufacturers to the requirements in the Tobacco Control Act, including adulteration and misbranding prohibitions, establishment registration and product listing for manufacturing facilities located in the United States, ingredient reporting, testing for Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents (HPHCs), a ban on unauthorized modified or reduced-risk claims and, most significantly, premarket authorization for any new products first marketed or modified after the February 15, 2007 “grandfather date”.

In the Deeming Rule, FDA proposed a “compliance policy” delaying enforcement of the premarket authorization requirements for deemed products already on the market when the rule went into effect. More specifically, for non-grandfathered deemed products on the market on August 8, 2016, manufacturers initially had either two years (i.e., by August 8, 2018) to submit a Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) or 18 months (i.e., by February 8, 2018) to submit a Substantial Equivalence (SE) Report. Products intended to be introduced to the market or existing products modified in any way after August 8, 2016 are not subject to the compliance policy and would first need to obtain FDA authorization before they can be marketed (enforcement of this requirement, however, has not been a priority for FDA to date).

Moreover, even if a company could submit a timely PMTA or SE Report that FDA accepted for review, the “sunset provision” in the compliance policy only allowed that product to be marketed for an additional 12 months (i.e., until August 8, 2019 for PMTAs) while the agency reviewed the application (FDA could extend this on a case-by-case basis).  If FDA was unable to complete its review by then, the product would have to be removed from the market, and could only be re-introduced if the Agency ever granted marketing authorization.

Due to the copious amounts of data and associated expenses needed for a PMTA, which potentially includes clinical and epidemiological studies to demonstrate that a product is “appropriate for the protection of the public health”, this resulted in a particularly dire situation for the vapor industry – which faced effectively being banned – because there are no known grandfathered e-vapor or e-liquid products and, therefore, no way to make use of the less arduous SE pathway. Indeed, through September 2016, FDA had refused to accept 362 PMTAs submitted, presumably, without the data needed to even begin the substantive review process. (To date, only Swedish Match’s PMTAs for its snus smokeless tobacco products have survived the review process, and those applications included a substantial amount of clinical and long-term epidemiological data from Sweden.)

Earlier this year, in light of multiple lawsuits filed by the industry, the PMTA deadline (as well as all other forthcoming TCA compliance deadlines for deemed products) was delayed by three months to November 8, 2018 “to allow new leadership at the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services additional time to more fully consider issues raised by the final [Deeming Rule].”

The new leadership, led by FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has now announced FDA’s revised compliance policy for deemed products. Under the new timelines, the February 15, 2007 grandfather date remains in place, but the deadlines for “applications” (i.e., SE Reports or PMTAs) for deemed products on the market have been delayed. Specifically, applications for newly-regulated combustible products, such as cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco, are due by August 8, 2021, and applications for non-combustibles, such as e-vapor and e-liquid products, are due by August 8, 2022. In his remarks, Dr. Gottlieb also indicated that FDA would be revising the sunset policy so that existing products under review remain on the market.

How Will This Impact Your Vape Business?

While the PMTA delay provides much needed breathing room on the most complicated and expensive requirement – and saves the vapor industry from a de facto ban – it is important for vape businesses to understand that none of the other fast approaching TCA deadlines have been impacted by FDA’s new policy.

Specifically, the Agency noted in its press release that its new policy will not (1) apply to provisions of the Deeming Rule for which compliance deadlines already have passed, such as mandatory age and photo-ID checks to prevent illegal sales to minors, or (2) affect future deadlines for other provisions of the rule, including, but not limited to, required warning statements, ingredient listing, health document submissions, harmful and potentially harmful constituent reports, and the removal of modified risk claims, i.e., “light,” “low,” or “mild,” or similar descriptors. The table below summarizes the major compliance deadlines for e-vapor product manufacturers:
Requirement
Deadline for Large-Scale Manufacturers
Deadline for Small-Scale Manufacturers
Free sample ban, age restriction, photo-ID check, use of modified/reduced risk claims and descriptors, adulteration and misbranding prohibitions
August 8, 2016
Introduction of new, deemed products without FDA premarket authorization (products on the market before this date are subject to the new compliance policy deadlines)
August 8, 2016
Registration of U.S. manufacturing establishments and submission of List of Products manufactured in such establishments [does not apply to foreign establishments]
September 30, 2017
Submission of Health Document Notification
February 8, 2017
November 8, 2017
Submission of Ingredient Listing Reports
November 8, 2017
May 8, 2018
Submission of Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents (HPHCs) reports
November 8, 2019
Nicotine Addiction Warning on Labels and Advertisements
August 10, 2018
 (distribution of products without the required warning must cease by September 10, 2018)
 
PMTA or SE Report for deemed combustible products (e.g. cigars or hookah) on market on August 8, 2016
August 8, 2021
PMTA or SE Report for deemed non-combustible products (e.g., vapor products) on August 8, 2016
August 8, 2022

To learn more about the U.S. manufacturing establishment registration & product listing, health document submission, and ingredient listing requirements, see herehere and here. If you have any questions about how to complete these submissions, please let us know.

What’s Next?

Beyond the immediate PMTA delay, FDA broadly announced that it is working to develop foundational rules and guidance, including rules and guidance to clarify the requirements for the SE Reporting process, PMTAs, and Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTPs) applications and the standards of review. Specifically, FDA:

  1. Plans to issue product standards for vapor products to protect against known public health risks;
  2. Will issue new “foundational rules” and guidance to modify the product review process and clarify the requirements for the SE Reporting process, PMTAs, and Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTPs) applications;
  3. Will study the effects of flavors (including menthol), both on young people and adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative;
  4. Will begin a public dialogue through an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the impact of reducing nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels (FDA stressed that, at this time, it is only contemplating a reduction in nicotine in cigarettes and not for other tobacco (i.e., vapor) products); and
  5. Will issue an ANPRM soliciting comments and data relating to the use and public health impacts of premium cigars.
If you are interested in obtaining additional guidance regarding tobacco and e-vapor compliance contact Azim Chowdhury (+1 202.434.4230, chowdhury@khlaw.com). For more information on Keller and Heckman LLP’s Tobacco and E-Vapor practice in general, visit www.khlaw.com/evapor. Follow Azim Chowdhury on Twitter.
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Although we are still waiting for an official announcement, FDA’s Stakeholder Relations Office recently indicated that the Agency will be delaying enforcement of all future Deeming Regulation compliance deadlines set for May 10, 2017 or later, including those for manufacturer submission of cigar warning label plans, registration and listing, ingredient listing, health documents, substantial equivalence exemption requests, substantial equivalence applications, premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs), and harmful and potentially harmful constituent (HPHC) reports. We understand that this does not apply to provisions of the Deeming Regulation where compliance deadlines already have passed, such as mandatory age and photo-ID checks to prevent illegal sales to minors.

The Stakeholder Relations Office further indicated that “this extension will allow new leadership at the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services additional time to more fully consider issues raised by the final rule that are now the subject of multiple lawsuits in federal court”.

Click here to learn more about Keller and Heckman LLP’s lawsuit on behalf of the e-vapor industry currently pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

We will let you know as soon as FDA officially announces the new deadlines or issues new guidance.

Updated Compliance Deadlines Under Deeming Rule [Pending FDA Official Announcement]

Requirement
Deadline for Large-Scale Companies 
Deadline for Small-Scale Companies 
Registration of U.S. manufacturing establishments
 September 30, 2017
 September 30, 2017
Submission of List of Products manufactured in U.S. establishments
 September 30, 2017
 September 30, 2017
Health Document Submission
February 8, 2017
[Note: this deadline has passed]
 November 8, 2017
 Submission of Ingredients Listing Reports
November 8, 2017
 May 8, 2018
Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) for products on market on August 8, 2016
November 8, 2018
 November 8, 2018
Submission of Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents (HPHCs) Reports
November 8, 2019
 November 8, 2019

For more information on our tobacco and e-vapor practice, please contact Azim Chowdhury (+1 202.434.4230; chowdhury@khlaw.com) and visit www.khlaw.com/evapor. Follow Keller and Heckman Tobacco and E-Vapor partner Azim Chowdhury on Twitter