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On May 1, 2018 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued 13 warning letters to companies that they claim misleadingly labeled or advertised nicotine-containing e-liquids as kid-friendly food products such as juice boxes, candies, and cookies.  Warning letters were issued to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of eight products.

All of the warning letters included allegations of misbranding under Sections 903(a)(1) and 903(a)(7) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) – both of which relate to labeling or advertising that is misleading or untrue in any particular – and Section 5 of the FTC Act for unfair or deceptive advertising.  Both the FDA and FTC alleged violations are based on the risk of confusion, especially by children, between the e-liquid products and foods that are marketed toward, or appealing to, children.

In some of the warning letters issued to distributors and retailers, FDA added allegations that the e-liquids were sold to minors in violation of Section 903(a)(7)(B) of the FDCA.  In one instance, FDA alleged that the company violated Section 201(rr)(4) of the FDCA – which bars the marketing of a tobacco product “in combination with any other article or product regulated” by FDA – because a combination pack of candy and e-liquid were offered together.  The warning letters also highlighted the potential harm that could result if nicotine-containing e-liquids are ingested by children, although the number of poison center calls regarding e-liquids has fallen dramatically since the Children’s Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act went into effect in 2016.  That law requires “liquid nicotine containers” use child-resistant packaging just like prescription drugs, some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and other potentially hazardous products found in the home, pursuant to the Poison Packaging Prevention Act.

The issuance of the 13 warning letters comes about a week after FDA Commissioner Gottlieb announced that FDA (1) recently issued warning letters to 40 retailers for underage sales of JUUL products, (2) was in the midst of a “new blitz of retail establishments targeting youth sale violations”, (3) is seeking to end sale of JUUL products to minors, and (4) would examine the youth appeal of JUUL products.  FDA also requested JUUL Labs submit information regarding, among other things, its marketing, research studies, and how certain product features might appeal to different age groups.  While some have argued that the panic over JUUL, which appears to be based on anecdotal evidence and media reports, could actually adversely impact the public health, there is no doubt that FDA is committed to cracking down on underage sales and reducing youth appeal of tobacco products, including vapor products.

In light of the warning letters issued on April 24 and May 1 and the Agency’s interest in tobacco product flavors, it appears that FDA may be setting its sights on the elimination of flavored e-liquids, which have also been shown to help adult smokers transition to less harmful vaping alternatives, as part of its effort to curb the use of vapor products by youth. Of note, a recent study evaluating how young people use vapor products in the United Kingdom, where the products are actively promoted by the government as less harmful than cigarettes and as a way to quit smoking, found that most product experimentation does not turn into regular use, and that regular use of vapor products in young people who have never smoked remains very low.

Industry and other stakeholders interested in maintaining the availability in the U.S. of flavored e-liquids have until June 19, 2018 to submit comments to FDA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

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The new European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the Data Protection Directive on May 25, 2018 and will directly impact all companies, including vapor product retailers and businesses, that market and sell products to consumers in the EU and/or employ residents of the EU. The reforms will give European consumers new rights and control over the personal data collected from and about them, and impose new obligations on businesses within and outside of the EU that collect personal information from EU citizens, regardless of where they reside, or from individuals who reside in the EU, regardless of their nationality.  Given the magnitude of potential penalties for violations of the GDPR (supervisory authorities are authorized to impose fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover for serious infringements and 2% for less serious infringements), it is imperative that vapor product retailers and others selling into the EU or handling data about Europe-based individuals ensure they are GDPR-ready.

The new rules empower individuals by, among other things, (1) providing easier access to personal data and more information on how data is processed, (2) facilitating data portability, or transfers of personal data between service providers, (3) clarifying the fundamental “right to be forgotten” for individuals who no longer wish for their data to be processed, and (4) requiring expedited notifications to the national supervisory authority by companies that experience a data breach affecting personal data.

Most companies operate with multiple streams of data, such as HR data, consumer data, vendor/supplier data, and the like. A good starting point is for businesses to assess their current data collection practices and identify gaps, and use that to map out a step-by-step compliance plan specific to their data collection practices that fully prepares them for the new GDPR world.

We provide below a summary of the key requirements in the GDPR and a compliance checklist for businesses. Please note that the summary and checklist are provided for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice regarding specific facts or circumstances.

GDPR KEY REQUIREMENTS
Personal Data The term “personal data” means “any information concerning an identified or identifiable natural person.” An identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, identification number, location data, online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the individual’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity.
Extraterritorial Effect The Regulation applies not only to the processing of personal data by controllers and processors in the EU, but also the processing of personal data of data subjects who are in the EU by a controller or a processor not established in the EU, if the processing activities are related to offering goods or services to the data subjects or monitoring their behavior within the EU.
Lawfulness of Processing To be lawful, at least one of the following must apply:

  • The data subject consents;
  • Processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party;
  • Processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subject (under EU or Member State law);
  • Processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject or another natural person;
  • Processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller (under EU or Member State law);
  • Processing is necessary for legitimate interests pursued by the controller or a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child.
Consent Consent to processing must be unambiguous, specific, informed, and freely given (for example, checking a box at a website or choosing technical settings). Pre-checked boxes do not constitute consent. For sensitive data (for example, data revealing race or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation), consent must be explicit. When processing has multiple purposes, consent should be given for all of them. Consent may be withdrawn.
Data Processing Processing of personal data must be lawful, fair, and transparent. Individuals should be made aware of the risks, rules, safeguards and their rights in relation to the processing of personal data. The specific purposes for which personal data are processed should be explicit and legitimate and determined at the time of the collection. Personal data should be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary for the purposes for which they are processed. Time limits should be established for erasure or periodic review. Personal data should be processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security and confidentiality.
Right to be Forgotten Individuals have a right to request deletion of data, with some exceptions (for example, if retention is legally required).
Data Portability Individuals have the right to easily transfer personal data between different service providers.
Children Special rules apply to children’s data. Where a child is below age 16, processing is lawful only if parents or guardians consent. Member States may establish a lower age for these purposes, so long as the age is not below age 13.
Controller Responsibility Personal data must be processed under the responsibility and liability of the controller, who must ensure and document compliance for each processing operation. Controllers should only use processors who provide sufficient guarantees in terms of expert knowledge, reliability and resources to implement technical and organizational measures that will meet the requirements of the Regulation. Adherence to an approved code of conduct or certification mechanism may be used to demonstrate compliance. There must be controller-processor agreements in place that describe the subject matter, duration, nature and purposes of the processing, type of personal data, and categories of data subjects. Upon completion of the processing, the processor must, at the controller’s election, return or delete the data, unless the processor is required by law to store it. Joint and several liability for controllers and processors.
Data Protection Impact Assessments

Data controllers must conduct Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) for “risky” processing. DPIAs should be completed before beginning any type of processing which is “likely to result in a high risk.” This means even though the actual level of risk may not have been assessed, a DPIA may be necessary based on identifying factors that point to the potential for a widespread or serious impact on individuals. Some jurisdictions may impose DPIA requirements on specific types of processing.

 

If the DPIA indicates that processing involves a high risk that cannot be mitigated, controller should consult supervisory authority (DPA) prior to the processing.

Data Protection Officer Organizations must appoint a data protection officer (DPO) in three situations: the processing is carried out by a public authority; the core activities of the controller or processor consist of processing operations which require regular and systematic processing of data subjects on a large scale; or the core activities involve processing sensitive data or criminal convictions on a large scale.
Documentation Controllers and processors must document all processing and make documentation available to DPA on request.
Data Breach Notification Controllers must notify DPA within 72 hours of learning of a breach, where feasible; no notification is required if a breach is unlikely to result in risk to the rights or freedoms of individuals. Controllers must notify data subjects without undue delay, where the breach is likely to result in a high risk to their rights or freedoms. Notifications to data subjects should describe the nature of the breach and recommendations for individuals to mitigate potential adverse effects. Processors must notify controllers.
Streamlined Approvals A single DPA can be designated the lead, enabling multiple DPAs to handle cases in a more streamlined manner.
Codes of Conduct and Certification Codes of conduct are encouraged, and are subject to approval by the Commission, and compliance should be monitored by an appropriate expert, accredited body. Approved codes of conduct will be registered and published. Data protection certification mechanisms, seals and marks are encouraged.
Transfers to Other Countries Transfers to other countries are permitted based on a determination that the country provides adequate protection of privacy; transfers are subject to adequate safeguards (for example, binding corporate rules, standard contractual clauses, an approved code of conduct, approved certification mechanisms, explicit informed consent).
Reduced Notifications Supervisory notifications about data processing are no longer required, but permission is required to process certain categories of data.
Art 29 Working Party (WP29) WP29 will be “upgraded” to an independent European Data Protection Board.
WP29 Guidance WP29 has issued guidance on several aspects of the GDPR that provide clarification and recommendations:

DPA Enforcement DPAs have enhanced enforcement powers, including expanded investigatory authority.
Complaints and Remedies EU citizens can lodge complaints with local DPAs, even where data is processed extra-territorially, and have the right to a judicial remedy against supervisory authorities who fail to act and against controllers and processors.
Penalties DPAs are authorized to impose fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover for certain serious infringements; 2% for less serious infringements.


GDPR Compliance Checklist 

Types of Personal Data Collected
Identify types of data collected
Identify sensitive data
Identify data collected from children/ whether parental consent is required
Data Processing
Appoint data protection officer (DPO)
DPOs must be appointed if:

  • The processing is carried out by a public authority;
  • The core activities of the controller or processor consist of processing operations which require regular and systematic processing of data subjects on a large scale; or
  • The core activities involve processing sensitive data or criminal convictions on a large scale.
  • May also be Operating/established in a jurisdiction (such as Germany) with more stringent requirements.
  • WP29 guidance on DPOs
  • “Core activities”: defined by WP29 as those that are integral to “the controller’s or processor’s activity.”
  • “Large scale”: WP29 recommends that businesses consider the number of data subjects concerned; the volume of data or range of data items; and the duration and the geographical extent of the processing.
  • “Regular and systematic monitoring”: WP29 states this would “include all forms of tracking and profiling on the internet, including for the purposes of behavioral advertising.”
Confirm the lawful basis for the processing:

  • Consent
  • Necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subject
  • Necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party
  • Necessary to protect an individual’s vital interest
  • Legitimate interests of the controller (i.e., providing client services or preventing fraud)
  • Transfers of personal data among controllers within an affiliated group for internal administrative purposes
  • Strictly necessary and proportionate for ensuring network and information security
If consent is the basis for the processing:

  • Must be unambiguous, specific, informed, and freely given
  • Must obtain consent for each processing activity/purpose
  • Explicit consent required for sensitive data
Confirm that personal data collected is adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary for the purpose(s)
Determine whether a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) is required (high-risk processing)

  • Systems that analyze a person’s economic situation, location, health, personal preferences, reliability or behavior
  • Video surveillance systems
  • Data in large scale filing systems on children, genetic or biometric data
DPIA, if required, should address

  • Contemplated processing and purposes
  • Necessity and proportionality of the processing in relation to the purposes
  • Risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects
  • Safeguards and security measures to address the risks
If DPIA indicates that processing would result in high risk, then consult DPA prior to processing
Data subjects must be informed about:

  • Identity and contact information for controller and DPO
  • Purposes of the processing and legal basis
  • Recipients/ categories of recipients of personal data
  • Period for which personal data will be stored
  • Right to request access to and correction or erasure of personal data or to restrict processing
  • Right to withdraw consent at any time
  • Right to file complaint with supervisory authority
Review privacy policies and update as necessary
Establish system for documenting processing operations
Amendments to third-party contracts to ensure compliance with GDPR and e-Privacy Directive (and eventually e-Privacy Regulation)
Data Storage
Determine where and how data is stored
Establish limits for erasure of data and periodic reviews
Review data retention policies to ensure data only kept for as long as necessary
Establish and/or review processes for rectifying or deleting inaccurate data
Prepare template responses for data access requests
Data Transfers to Other Countries
Review and analyze global data flows
Assess validity of current mechanisms for transfers of personal data from the EU to the U.S. or other countries, for example:

  • Adequacy determination
  • Binding corporate rules
  • Standard contractual clauses
  • EU–U.S. Privacy Shield
  • Codes of conduct
  • Certification mechanisms
  • Explicit, informed consent in limited circumstances
Assess feasibility/benefits of approved codes of conduct and certification mechanisms
Assess need for controller-controller and/or controller-processor agreements; review content for compliance with new requirements
Data Security
Review technical and organizational measures in place to prevent unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, disclosure of/ access to personal data

  • Pseudonymization and encryption
  • Ability to ensure ongoing confidentiality integrity, availability, and resilience of processing systems and services
  • Ability to restore availability and access to data in timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident
  • Process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of the security measures in place
Ensure that processors are employing adequate technical and organizational measures; address in contracts
Establish and/or update data breach response plan

For more information on the GDPR or other privacy or data security matters, and how they affect businesses involved in e-liquid and vapor products, please contact Tracy Marshall (+1 202.434.4234, marshall@khlaw.com), Azim Chowdhury (+1 202.434.4230, chowdhury@khlaw.com), or Nathan A. Cardon (+1 202.434.4254, cardon@khlaw.com).

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The 2nd Annual Keller and Heckman E-Vapor and Tobacco Law Symposium held on February 6-7, 2018 in Irvine, California was a huge success with over 100 attendees from all over the country and world.  Check out the highlight video below.  We are in the process of securing a location for next year’s symposium and would like your feedback on potential locations (Irvine, Miami, Dallas or Washington, DC).  Please take a moment to complete the brief survey here.

Take a look at highlights from this year’s conference:

Click on the link below to receive updates on the 2019 E-Vapor and Tobacco Law Symposium.

For questions or additional information,  please contact:

Sara A. Woldai

Manager, Marketing Meetings and Events

Keller and Heckman LLP

woldai@khlaw.com

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In FDA’s latest effort to implement its comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation, the Agency published two additional advanced notice of proposed rulemakings (ANPRMs) concerning regulation of premium cigars and tobacco product flavors.  Specifically, on March 21, 2018, the FDA published an ANPRM, “Regulation of Flavors in Tobacco Products,” which solicited comments on, among things, the role of flavors (other than tobacco) (hereinafter, “flavors”) on initiation and patterns of tobacco product use and on transitioning combustible to non-combustible tobacco product use.[1]  The next week, on March 26, 2018, the FDA published another ANPRM, “Regulation of Premium Cigars,” which requested input on the definition and use patterns of premium cigars as well as public health considerations associated with premium cigars.[2]  While these regulatory actions were initially promised in FDA’s July 28, 2017 comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation, publication of the ANPRMs in the Federal Register provide an indication of the Agency’s regulatory priorities going forward. [3]

Flavored Tobacco Products ANPRM

In the ANPRM regarding regulation of tobacco product flavors, FDA requests comments on, among other topics, the following:

  • The Role of Flavors (other than tobacco) in Tobacco Products: FDA requested studies or information regarding the role of flavors generally in tobacco products, as well as the appropriateness of extrapolating research from other areas (e.g., consumer products) to the tobacco space.[4]
  • Flavors (other than tobacco) and Initiation and Patterns of Tobacco Product Use, Particularly Among Youth and Young Adults: FDA requested studies or information regarding the role of flavors in: (1) initiation and/or patterns of use of combusted and non-combusted tobacco products among youth and young adults; (2) in non-combusted tobacco products on initiation of tobacco product use or progression to use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults.[5]
  • Flavors (other than tobacco) and cessation, dual use, and relapse among current and former tobacco product users: FDA requested information on the role of flavors in helping adult cigarette smokers reduce cigarette use and/or switch to potentially less harmful tobacco products. Further, FDA requested studies or information concerning the role of flavors in non-combusted tobacco products on the likelihood of: (i) cessation of combusted tobacco product use; (ii) cessation of all tobacco product use; and (iii) uptake of dual use of combusted and non-combusted tobacco products among current and former tobacco product users.”[6]  FDA also requested information on the role of flavors in combusted products on the likelihood of: (1) delayed or impeded cessation among users who would have otherwise quit combusted tobacco product use; or (2) delayed or impeded cessation among users who would have otherwise quit all tobacco product use.  FDA also solicited studies or information regarding the role of flavors in non-combusted tobacco on the likelihood that former combusted tobacco product users relapse.[7]
  • Additional Public Health Considerations: FDA requested studies or information regarding (1) the potential toxicity or adverse health effects to the user or others from any flavors (e.g., flavor additives, compounds or ingredients) in tobacco products; (2) the impact of public health efforts by local jurisdictions, States, and members of the international community to impose restrictions on the manufacture, marketing, sale or distribution of all or a subset of tobacco products with flavors, including but not limited to, cigars, ENDS, menthol cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco products; (3) consumer perceptions of the health risk of tobacco products with flavors when compared to other tobacco products both with and without flavors; (4) consumer perceptions, if any, of the addictiveness of tobacco products with flavors.

In a contemporaneous statement accompanying the ANPRM, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D called upon all stakeholders to “share data, research, and information that can inform our process for examining the role that flavors – including menthol – play in initiation, use and cessation of tobacco products.[1]  Importantly, the FDA Commissioner also requested “personal stories” from individuals that have been aided by flavors in making the transition between combustible tobacco cigarettes and vaping.  As seen in the litigation surrounding the deeming rule, these regulatory comments could be cited in any future litigation regarding either of these issues.

Comments are due on the tobacco product flavors ANPRM by June 19, 2018.

Premium Cigars ANPRM

In the preamble to the ANPRM regarding premium cigars, FDA noted that it received “numerous comments on the deeming proposed rule with respect to premium cigars, both in favor of, and against, regulating these products.”[8]  However, FDA explains that there was a lack of data supporting the opinions expressed in the comments received by the Agency regarding the Deeming Rule.  For that reason, the ANPRM explains that “FDA is seeking comments, evidence, information, data, and analysis that were not submitted in response to the proposed deeming rule” that could inform FDA’s thinking with respect to regulation of premium cigars.[9]

As an example of the type of information that would be responsive to the ANPRM, FDA cites a PATH Study Paper, which analyzed findings from the 2013-2014 Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study with a focus on smokers of filtered cigars, cigarillos, and traditional cigars, which were further classified by study authors as either “premium” or “nonpremium.”[10]  That study concluded that “use characteristics, cigar smoking patterns, and dual smoking with cigarettes varied by cigar type.”[11]

Specifically, in the ANPRM, FDA requests comments on, among other topics, the following:

  • Definition of Premium Cigars: Among other things, FDA requested comments from the public concerning the defining characteristics of premium cigars, which may include: size; tobacco filler type; fermentation type; wrapper and binder composition; where the tobacco used for premium cigar filler or wrappers is grown; presence or absence of a filter or mouthpiece; manufacturing and assembly process; rate of production; presence or absence of flavor imparting compounds, flavor additives, or characterizing flavors other than tobacco; presence or absence of any additives other than cigar glue; nicotine content; tar and carbon monoxide delivery amounts; retail price; frequency with which price changes; packaging quantity and size; any action directed to consumers by a retailer or manufacturer.[12]
  • Use Patterns of Premium Cigars: FDA solicited studies or information regarding, among other things, and as compared to other cigars: (1) the potential role of premium cigars on tobacco initiation and progression to use of other tobacco products; (2) behavioral data related to dual use of premium cigars and other tobacco products; (3) the frequency and intensity of premium cigar use; (4) the proportion of premium cigar smokers showing symptoms of dependence; (5) the abuse liability of premium cigars; (6) the impact of premium cigar labeling, advertising, and marketing efforts on patterns of use.  Lastly, FDA also requested information on the extent to which users of other tobacco products might switch to premium cigars if FDA were to exempt premium cigars from regulation or regulate premium cigars differently from other cigars.[13]
  • Public health considerations associated with premium cigars: FDA requested studies or information regarding, among other things, and as compared to other cigars: (1) nicotine concentrations for premium cigars; (2) the risk of cancer, heart disease, aortic aneurysm, periodontal disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease associated with premium cigar use; (3) the addictiveness, and consumer perceptions of the addictiveness, of premium cigars; (4) the required warning statements for premium cigars; and (5) the applicable manufacturing, marketing, sale, distribution, advertising, and labeling and/or packaging requirements and restrictions in the FDCA and its implementing regulations and whether they should be applied differently to premium cigars.

Comments are due on the premium cigar ANPRM by June 25, 2018.

Summary

An Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking constitutes the earliest (and optional) stage of the administrative process that must be followed before eventually issuing an administrative rule.  As such, there is still ample time for efforts to influence the FDA’s regulatory approach to both premium cigars and tobacco product flavors by submitting comments to the administrative docket.  Companies or individuals interested in providing such feedback should consult with counsel to determine the best approach to maximize their impact with FDA.

[1]              See FDA, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Especially Among Youth, by Exploring Options to Address the Role of Flavors – including Menthol – in Tobacco Products, https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/UCM601690.htm?utm_source=CTPEblast&utm_medium=email&utm_term=sro&utm_content=pressrelease&utm_campaign=ctp-flavanprm.

[1]              Regulation of Flavors in Tobacco Products, 83 Fed. Reg. 12294 (Mar. 21, 2018);

[2]              Regulation of Premium Cigars, 83 Fed. Reg. 12901 (Mar. 26, 2018).

[3]              FDA News Release, FDA Announces Comprehensive Regulatory Plan to Shift Trajectory of tobacco-related disease and death (July 28, 2017), https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm568923.htm.

[4]              83 Fed. Reg. 12994, 12998-99 (Mar. 21, 2018).

[5]              83 Fed. Reg. 12999.

[6]              Id.

[7]              Id.

[8]              83 Fed. Reg. 12901, 12902 (Mar. 26, 2018).

[9]              83 Fed. Reg. 12902. (emphasis added).

[10]             83 Fed. Reg. 12902-03, citing, Catherine G. Corey, MPSH et al., U.S. Adult Cigar Smoking patterns, Purchasing Behaviors, and Reasons for Use According to Cigar Type: Findings from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, 2013-2014, Nicotine & Tobacco Research (Sept. 15, 2017), available at https://academic.oup.com/ntr/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ntr/ntx209/4159211?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

[11]             Catherine G. Corey, MPSH et al., U.S. Adult Cigar Smoking patterns, Purchasing Behaviors, and Reasons for Use According to Cigar Type: Findings from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, 2013-2014, Nicotine & Tobacco Research (Sept. 15, 2017), available at https://academic.oup.com/ntr/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/ntr/ntx209/4159211?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

[12]             83 Fed. Reg. 12903.

[13]             83 Fed. Reg. 12904.

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In the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) latest effort to implement its comprehensive regulatory plan[1] to shift the trajectory of tobacco-related disease and death, the Agency issued, on March 15, 2018, an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to obtain information for consideration in developing a tobacco product standard to set a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes.[2]  As described in a contemporaneous statement issued by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the ANPRM provides a wide-ranging review of the current scientific understanding about the role nicotine plays in addiction.[3]  Moreover, the ANPRM clarifies that FDA is considering “issuance of a product standard to set a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes so that they are minimally addictive or nonaddictive.”[4]

As detailed below, FDA requests in the ANPRM comments on, among other topics, the following:

  • Scope: Should the potential maximum nicotine level apply only to cigarettes or should it include other combustible tobacco products as well?
  • Maximum Nicotine Level: What is the maximum nicotine level that should be used as the threshold for “minimally addictive” or “non-addictive” levels?
  • Implementation: Should the maximum nicotine level for cigarettes propose a single target (where nicotine is reduced all at once or a stepped-down approach (where nicotine is reduced gradually over time through a sequence of incremental levels)?  Relatedly, what is the proper timeframe to implement a possible maximum nicotine level?
  • Analytical Testing Method: Should FDA specify a method for manufacturers to use to detect the level of nicotine in their products? If so, which method should be used?

Comments are due by June 14, 2018.

Scope of FDA’s Proposed Tobacco Product Standard

In the ANPRM, FDA seeks comments on whether the standard should cover any or all of the following products:  combusted cigarettes (which FDA has previously interpreted to include kreteks and bidis), cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco, some or all cigars (e.g., including large and “premium” cigars), pipe tobacco, and waterpipe tobacco.[5]  Importantly, the Agency explains that “any nicotine tobacco product standard would cover all brands in a particular product category and, therefore, those products currently on the market and any new tobacco products would be expected to adhere to the standard.”[6]  Key questions raised by the ANPRM also include whether so-called “premium” cigars should be regulated differently from other cigars and whether waterpipe tobacco products should be excluded because they are unlikely to be migration substitutes or dual use candidates.[7]

Identification and Implementation of Appropriate Maximum Nicotine Level

With respect to nicotine levels in cigarettes, FDA requested comments on a potential maximum nicotine level that would be “minimally addictive” or “non addictive” and appropriate for the protection of public health, recognizing that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act specifically prohibits FDA from “requiring the reduction of nicotine yields of a tobacco product to zero.”[8]  Indeed, FDA is particularly interested in comments concerning the merits of nicotine levels of 0.3, 0.4, and 0.5 mg nicotine/g of tobacco filler.[9]  In addition, the ANPRM requests comments on how any potential maximum nicotine level should be measured (e.g., nicotine yield, nicotine in tobacco filler, something else), how the threshold of nicotine addiction should be measured, and whether the product standard should specify a method for manufacturers to use to detect the level of nicotine in their products.[10]  Further, FDA requests comments on whether a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes should propose either a single target (where the nicotine is reduced all at once) or a stepped-down approach (where the nicotine is reduced gradually over time through a sequence of incremental levels and implementation dates).[11]

Technical Challenges Associated with Implementation

The ANPRM also acknowledges the technical challenges associated with implementation of a maximum nicotine standard.  Indeed, FDA explains that “significant nicotine reductions in cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products can be achieved principally through tobacco blending and cross-breeding plants, genetic engineering, and chemical extraction.”[12]  Similarly, FDA notes that “agricultural practices (e.g., controlled growing conditions, fertilization, and harvest) as well as more recent, novel techniques also can help to reduce nicotine levels.”  With that in mind, FDA explains that it is considering the proper timeframe to allow adequate time for industry to comply with a possible tobacco product standard setting a maximum nicotine level.  Relatedly, the ANPRM requests data and information regarding the potential costs, including the potential costs to farmers, to implement such a standard.

Countervailing Effects of Potential Nicotine Standard

Notably, the ANPRM also outlines several possible countervailing effects of a potential nicotine tobacco product standard, including: (1) continued combustible tobacco product use (e.g., current users switching to, or using simultaneously (i.e., dual use), a different combusted tobacco product to maintain their nicotine dependence; (2) continued very low nicotine cigarette smoking with altered behaviors (e.g., increase in number of cigarettes smoked, increased depth of inhalation); (3) cigarette users adding nicotine in liquid or other form to their combusted tobacco product; and (4) increased illicit trade of tobacco products.[13]  FDA plans to consider each of these potential unintended consequences before moving forward with issuing a potential maximum nicotine level for combustible tobacco products.

Projected Health Benefits

As explained in FDA Commissioner Gottlieb’s statement accompanying the ANPRM, new estimates included in the ANPRM and to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine, evaluate a potential policy scenario whereby a maximum nicotine level is implemented.  By the year 2100, the median estimate from the model, based on the experts’ estimates of potential initiation rates because of the policy, is that more than 33 million youth and young adults who would have otherwise initiated regular smoking would not start as a result of the hypothetical policy scenario.[14]  Further, using expert estimates for the percent of current smokers who would quit smoking after implementation of the policy, approximately 5 million additional smokers are estimated to quit smoking within one year after implementation of the standard.[15]  Under the same model, by 2060, it is estimated that a median value of almost 3 million deaths due to tobacco would be avoided.[16]

Impact of Potential Maximum Nicotine Level on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

Of note for the vapor industry, in the Agency’s discussion of the effects of FDA’s potential tobacco product standard establishing a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes, FDA essentially acknowledges, as it has in the past, that ENDS products are less harmful than cigarettes.  Indeed, FDA explains “former smokers that choose to switch completely to a potentially less harmful nicotine product (e.g., electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)) to maintain their nicotine dose also would, to the extent that those products result in less harm, significantly reduce their risk of tobacco-related death and disease.”[17]  By implication, this statement appears to tacitly accept that current combustible tobacco product users are likely to switch to ENDS products not covered by the potential maximum nicotine level rule.

Indeed, this result was recognized in a 2018 update (discussed in the ANPRM) to a previously published discrete system dynamic population model that compared projected outcomes for a status quo scenario (in which no maximum nicotine level is implemented) with outcomes for a policy scenario in which a hypothetical regulation lowering nicotine in cigarettes and selected other combusted tobacco products, to minimally addictive levels.[18]  Importantly, the model of the potential effects of the maximum nicotine level for cigarettes projected a simultaneous reduction in cigarette smoking and an increase in non-combusted tobacco product use.[19]   Lastly, in an industry conference call held on March 15, 2018 to announce the ANPRM, Mitch Zeller, the Director of the Center for Tobacco Products, expressly acknowledged the Agency’s obligation under Commissioner Gottlieb’s new comprehensive plan to ensure that nicotine remains on the market in less harmful forms as FDA works to implement a potential maximum nicotine level for combustible cigarettes.

 

______________________________________________________

[1] FDA News Release, FDA Announces Comprehensive Regulatory Plan to Shift Trajectory of tobacco-related disease and death (July 28, 2017), https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm568923.htm.

[2] FDA, Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2018-05345.pdf (pre-publication copy), at 1.

[3] FDA Statement, Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on Pivotal Public Health Step to Dramatically Reduce Smoking Rates by Lowering Nicotine in Combustible Cigarettes to Minimally or Non-Additive Levels, https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/UCM601039.htm?utm_campaign=Statement_ANPRM%20to%20reduce%20nicotine%20in%20cigs&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua.

[4] Id., at 6

[5] Id., at 7.

[6] Id., at 8.

[7] Id., at 33.

[8] 21 U.S.C. § 387g(d)(3)(B)

[9] Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), at 9.

[10] Id., at 9.

[11] Id., at 9

[12] Id., at 10.

[13] Id., at 10-12; See also FDA, Draft Concept Paper, “Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products after Implementation of an FDA Product Standard (Mar. 15, 2018), available at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/tobaccoproducts/newsevents/ucm601047.pdf.

[14] Id., at 74.

[15] Id., at 75.

[16] Id., at 75.

[17] Id., at 26.

[18] Id., at 69.

[19] Id., at 74.

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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.

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Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Releases Report Documenting Massive Review of Existing Scientific Literature

On January 23, 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (hereinafter referred to as the “National Academies”) Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) released a report entitled, “Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes” (hereinafter referred to as the “Report”).[1] The Report, which was the result of the Committee’s review of over 800 articles identified from a massive literature search of six different databases, noted that the Committee found sufficient literature to suggest that, “while there are risks associated with e-cigarettes, compared with combustible tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain fewer toxicants; can deliver nicotine in a manner similar to combustible tobacco cigarettes; show significantly less biological activity in a number of in vitro, animal, and human systems; and might be useful as a cessation aid in smokers who use e-cigarettes exclusively.”[2] In sum, the Report acknowledges that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking traditional combustible tobacco cigarettes

Background on the Report
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 included language directing the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “contract with the Institute of Medicine to conduct an in-depth evaluation of available evidence of health effects from e-cigarettes and recommendations for future federally funded research.”[3] CTP contracted with the National Academies to convene an ad-hoc committee to conduct this evaluation, which resulted in the creation of the Committee. The Committee’s literature review included an analysis of data on both short-term and long-term health effects in: (1) users of ENDS, including health effects associated with the use of these devices (e.g., cigalikes, tank systems, mods); (2) vulnerable populations of users (e.g., youth, pregnant women, individuals with underlying medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, pulmonary disease); and (3) non-users of ENDS exposed to second-hand and third-hand aerosol generated by use of these devices.[4]

The Report Concludes That Vapor Products Are Less Harmful Than Combustible Tobacco Cigarettes
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Report is the Committee’s implicit and explicit conclusion that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible tobacco cigarettes. Although the Report is more cautious than the Royal College of Physicians Report,[5] the Committee nevertheless acknowledged that the “current evidence points to e-cigarettes being less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes.”[6]

Moreover, several of the Report’s findings bolster the Committee’s conclusion that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes. For example, the Committee found “conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces users’ exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes.”[7] Indeed, all cross-sectional and longitudinal studies comparing exposure to nicotine and toxicants in smokers who substituted e-cigarettes for their combustible cigarettes, showed that smokers who substitute e-cigarettes for their combustible cigarettes had significantly reduced levels of biomarkers of exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.[8] Similarly, the Committee observed that “although some studies found similar harm from e-cigarettes, no studies found that e-cigarettes were more harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes among combustible tobacco cigarette smokers who switched to exclusive e-cigarette use.”[9]

Further, the Committee concluded that there was “substantial evidence that completely switching from regular use of combustible tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes results in reduced short-term adverse health outcomes in several organ systems.”[10] In addition, studies reviewed by the Committee showed that use of an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose non-users to nicotine and particulates, but such exposure is at lower levels compared with exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke from combustible tobacco cigarettes.[11] The Report also noted that, “among dual users, e-cigarettes may help maintain smoking reduction.”[12]

At the same time, the Report notes that “the proportion of U.S. adults who consider [e-cigarettes] to be as harmful as combustible tobacco cigarettes has increased over time,” indicating that the public needs information related to the relative harm of e-cigarette products.[13] However, the “modified risk” provisions of the Tobacco Control Act (the “Act”) prohibit vapor companies from making truthful claims that their products present reduced-risk compared to combustible cigarettes, or even that their products do not contain or produce smoke or tar, without submitting an extensive application and securing FDA’s approval to make such claims.[14] Indeed, the modified risk standard is so stringent that it is highly unlikely any such claim will ever be approved for a vapor product.[15]

Accordingly, an unintended consequence of FDA’s approach to implementing the Act may be the proliferation of misinformation concerning the relative risks of vapor products and combustible tobacco cigarettes.[16]

Youth Use of E-Cigarettes
A frequent area of concern for courts[17], FDA, and public interest groups involves the use of e-cigarettes among youth.  As background, the Committee notes that the “proportion of youth who reported ever using e-cigarettes varies substantially across surveys” from as low as 10.7 percent to as high as 27.1 percent.[18] The Committee indicates that “early results suggest” that e-cigarette use “stabilized or decreased in youth between 2015 and 2016, despite increases between 2011 and 2015 across a range of surveys.”[19] Among those who reported having ever used an e-cigarette, youth most commonly reported using rechargeable/refillable tank-style devices, with more than half (53.4 percent) of middle and high school students reporting using only this kind of device.”[20]

In its consideration of the impact of e-cigarette use on “ever-use” of combustible tobacco products, which critically, is defined as smoking a single cigarette at any point in one’s life, the Report considers two dueling hypotheses (i.e., the diversion hypothesis and the catalyst hypothesis).  The Committee explains that e-cigarettes could have a preventive effect if the diversion hypothesis – the hypothesis that because some youth possess an elevated drive to engage in exploratory or risk-taking behavior, the availability of e-cigarettes allows such young people to satisfy their curiosity and drive for novelty without resorting to combustible tobacco cigarettes – is proven. Similarly, if the catalyst hypothesis – the hypothesis that e-cigarettes attract low risk teens who would not otherwise try combustible tobacco cigarettes and, once these teens have tried e-cigarettes, they are more likely to try combustible tobacco cigarettes – holds, e-cigarette use would increase the risk of ever-smoking.[21] Of course, e-cigarette use may also have no effect on combustible tobacco cigarette ever use in adolescents and young adults.

Keeping in mind the definition of “ever-use” noted above (i.e., smoking a single cigarette at some point) the Committee concluded, among other things, that “there is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases the risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults.”[22] While news headlines across the world ran with this conclusion to claim that e-cigarettes “lure” kids into smoking, the Report also observes that “the population-based data broadly show opposing trends in e-cigarette and cigarette use prevalence across time among U.S. youth in recent years and thus do not provide confirmatory evidence of the epidemiologic person-level positive associations of vaping and smoking.”[23] In this regard, we note that the National Youth Tobacco Survey data shows that youth smoking rates have been falling rapidly.[24] Between 2011 and 2016, current use of cigarettes by high school students fell from 15.8 percent to 8.0 percent, and use of cigars and pipes also fell.

Implications of the Report
Ultimately, the Report is the most complete analysis of existing research on the public health consequences of e-cigarettes in the United States. Further, the Report provides the imprimatur of the National Academies on a conclusion long recognized by the vaping community: e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes.

 

___________________________________________

[1] National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine: Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, The Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes (eds. Kathleen Stratton et al., 2018), available at https://tinyurl.com/ya4w37kb (hereinafter, referred to as the “Report”).

[2] Report, supra n.1., at S-9.

[3] Id., supra n.1., at 1-1, 1-2 (Box 1-1 Statement of Task).

[4] Id., supra n.1., at S-9.

[5] Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians, Nicotine Without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction (2016), at 87, available at https://tinyurl.com/h5ypa7s (stating, “although it is not possible to precisely quantify the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure.”).

[6] Report, supra n.1., at 18-23.

[7] Id., supra n.1., at 18-13; See also Id., at 5-32 (“Conclusion 5-3. There is substantial evidence that except for nicotine, under typical conditions of use, exposure to potentially toxic substances from e-cigarettes is significantly lower compared with combustible tobacco cigarettes.”) (emphasis in original).

[8] Id., supra n.1., at 18-13.

[9] Id., supra n.1., at 18-23.

[10] Id., supra n.1, at 18-24.

[11] Id., supra n.1., at 18-28.

[12] Id., supra n.1., at 18-25.

[13] Id., supra n.1., at 18-2.

[14] 21 U.S.C. § 387k.

[15] FDA may issue a modified risk order only after the manufacturer makes numerous showings based on scientific data.  Specifically, the applicant must demonstrate that the product will:

  • significantly reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease to individual users; and
  • 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) (emphasis added).  As to the “population effects” prong of the standard, FDA must consider:

  • relative health risks of the subject tobacco product;
  • likelihood that those who do not use tobacco products will start using the subject product (e., initiation); and
  • likelihood that users who would otherwise stop using tobacco products will start using the subject product (e., cessation)

21 USC § 387k(g)(4).

[16] See Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, Pub. L. No. 111-31, 123 Stat. 1776 (2009) (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”); See also 21 U.S.C. § 387k.

[17] See e.g., Discount Tobacco City & Lottery, Inc. v. United States, 674 F.3d 509(6th Cir. 2012), (finding a “substantial state interest in curbing juvenile tobacco use that can be directly advanced by imposing limitations on the marketing of tobacco products.”).

[18] Report, supra n.1., at 1-3 (compare the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) survey (Wave 1 in 2013-2014) finding only 10.7% of youth ages 12-17 reporting ever using an e-cigarette once or twice with the National Youth Tobacco Survey finding that 27.1% of middle and high school students ever used e-cigarettes.).

[19] Id., supra n.1., at S-1, 2.

[20] Id., supra n.1., at 1-5.

[21] Id., supra n.1., at 16-3.

[22] Id., supra n.1., at 16-30 (emphasis added).

[23] Id., supra n.1, at 16-28; See also Sheila Kaplan, Vaping Can be Addictive and May Lure Teenagers to Smoking, Science Panel Concludes, The N.Y. Times (Jan. 23, 2018), available at https://tinyurl.com/y86naj7u.

[24] Jamal A, Gentzke et al. Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2016, 66 MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. No. 23, at 597-603 (June 16, 2017), available at https://tinyurl.com/y8ce2w9a.

 

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Beyond the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Tobacco Control Act requirements that now apply to deemed tobacco products, manufacturers and retailers of vapor products, and particularly e-liquids, also face stringent environmental and waste management regulations and compliance issues that are significantly more complex than those faced by cigarette and traditional tobacco product companies. This dichotomy arises because regulations promulgated pursuant to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) treat nicotine in tobacco-based products differently than when found in e-cigarettes and other vaping products.

Compliance with the waste management regulations can be confusing because their scope and extent will vary by the amount of waste nicotine produced at a manufacturing facility or the amount of nicotine-containing products collected for disposal by a retailer. Further complicating the issue, even if exempted from the RCRA regulations, certain nicotine-containing products may be subject to state regulation of nicotine as a dangerous or industrial waste. Although there have been few enforcement actions brought against vapor or e-liquid manufacturers or retailers, regulators have noted the industry’s growth and potential for noncompliance. Going forward, we expect regulators to focus less on educating the industry about waste management obligations and follow a more active enforcement approach.

RCRA Overview

The federal RCRA regulations and state analogues establish a comprehensive system for managing hazardous waste from “cradle to grave,” that is from the point the waste is generated until its ultimate disposal. Broadly speaking, the regulations prescribe how to determine if and when a material is regulated as a hazardous waste, and how to manage the waste once the determination is made. Critically, RCRA only applies when the material becomes solid waste, meaning that it has been discarded by being abandoned, recycled, or treated as “inherently-waste like,” or the decision to discard has been made.[1]

Having decided to discard a material, the waste generator must next determine whether the waste is hazardous. This is done in one of two ways: (1) does the waste contain materials that EPA has listed in one of the three hazardous waste lists codified at 40 C.F.R. Part 261, subpart D; or (2) does the waste exhibit one or more of four characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity?[2] With regards to e-liquids and other nicotine-bearing products, certain unused chemicals are listed hazardous wastes when discarded.[3] The hazardous waste listing applies when the following three criteria have been met. First, the chemical must be listed at 40 C.F.R. § 261.33(e) or (f). Nicotine and its salts are listed at 40 C.F.R. § 261.33(e) as an acute hazardous waste with the P075 waste code. Second, the listing applies “if and when they are discarded or intended to be discarded” prior to use.[4] Given its intended function, nicotine in e-cigarettes is not used until it has been inhaled by the end user.

Third, the listed chemical must be discarded in the form of a “commercial chemical product or manufacturing chemical intermediate having the generic name of the listed chemical” (CCP). The term CCP refers to a chemical substance which is manufactured or formulated for commercial or manufacturing use and which consists of the commercially pure grade of the chemical, any technical grades of the chemical that are produced or marketed, all formulations in which the chemical is the sole active ingredient, and any off-specification forms of the foregoing chemicals.[5] Products with more than one active ingredient are not regulated as CCP, although they may still be regulated hazardous wastes if they exhibit one of the hazardous characteristics.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nicotine is the “sole active ingredient” in e-cigarettes because it is the “only chemically active component that performs the function of the product.[6] Flavorings, sweeteners, colorants and other components are considered inert ingredients. Consequently, raw material (i.e., nicotine), off-spec e-liquids, container residues, and spill residues are hazardous wastes when they are discarded or intended to be discarded from businesses. In addition, EPA has stated that because certain e-cigarettes contain cartridges that are containers of a CCP, they too must be treated as hazardous waste when disposed.[7] This also applies to tanks and pods used in open-systems and advanced vaporizers to hold the nicotine-containing e-liquid.

RCRA Requirements Depend on Quantity

Hazardous waste compliance requirements vary significantly under RCRA depending on the amount of hazardous waste a facility generates each month. Thus, the generator category of a company and commensurate requirements, including storage and accumulation, recordkeeping and reporting, and training requirements could change from month to month.[8] Keeping up with these changes and ensuring a facility complies can be particularly burdensome for small businesses, such as those that constitute a large portion of the vapor industry.

Nicotine’s status as an acute hazardous waste is likely the primary driver for determining the “generator” category for an e-liquid or vapor product manufacturer. Businesses that generate acute hazardous waste (“generators”) are categorized as very small quantity generators (VSQGs) when generating up to 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) per month, and large quantity generators (LQGs) when generating more than 2.2 pounds per month.[9] Regulatory requirements are significantly greater for LQGs, as is clear from a guidance chart developed by EPA.[10] Thus, e-liquid manufacturers have a strong incentive to operate as VSQGs or small quantity generators (SQGs).

When a generator has multiple hazardous waste streams, the generator must quantify each waste stream separately and abide by the more stringent generator category.[11] An e-liquid manufacturer will be classified as an SQG if the manufacturer does not exceed the 2.2 pound per month threshold for acute hazardous waste but generates greater than 100 pounds of non-acute hazardous waste per month.[12] For example, a generator of up to 2.2 pounds of acute hazardous waste that crossed the 220 pound threshold for non-acute hazardous waste may need to comply with SQG requirements, as opposed to VSQG requirements.

Fortunately, a generator has some options for managing hazardous wastes: recycling, treatment, storage, or disposal. Each approach has its own implications and requirements under RCRA. Recycling (e.g., nicotine reclamation) is a management method that can have a meaningful impact on the standards applicable to hazardous waste generators. Provided that the company can demonstrate the recycling is legitimate, the reclaimed nicotine will not be considered solid waste.[13] Recycling is a particularly appealing option as it can reduce the amount of material counted as hazardous waste for purposes of determining the generator category.

E-liquids May Be an Increasing Focus for Enforcement

Compliance with RCRA requirements by vapor product and e-liquid manufacturers is an increasing area of emphasis for both the states and EPA. Thus far, states have focused on outreach to the industry regarding compliance measures.[14] Such outreach typically lasts from six months to a year to provide a chance for the industry to come into compliance before the agencies transition to enforcement. Given that the e-cigarette and vaping industries have been growing for several years, and that the past two years have seen an increase in state proposals and communications concerning this issue, industry members need to consider whether regulators will pursue a more aggressive enforcement agenda in the new year and going forward. Accordingly, e-cigarette and e-liquid manufacturers should evaluate their processes and potential impact on generator status to determine whether their facilities are complying with RCRA or state analogues.

To learn more about the environmental and hazardous waste management regulations that apply to your e-liquid or vapor business, be sure to attend our upcoming E-Vapor and Tobacco Law Symposium on February 6-7, 2018 in Irvine, California. Click here to register and for more information.

For more information on our Tobacco and E-Vapor Practice, visit www.khlaw.com/evapor. For more information on our Environmental Practice, visit www.khlaw.com/Environmental. Follow Keller and Heckman Tobacco and E-Vapor Partner Azim Chowdhury on Twitter.

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[1] 40 C.F.R. §§ 261.2(a), 261.33.
[2] 40 C.F.R. §§ 261.20-261.24.
[3] See 40 C.F.R. § 261.33.
[4] 40 C.F.R. § 261.33. See also EPA Letter to Merck Sharp & Dohme, FaxBack #11012, May 13, 1981.
[5] 40 C.F.R. § 261.33(b)
[6] Letter from Barnes Johnson, EPA, to Daniel K. DeWitt, Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP (May 8, 2015), RCRA Online #14850.
[7] Id.
[8] Recent revisions to the regulations do provide some relief to companies that consistently qualify under one category but experience an episodic event that shifts them to a more burdensome one. The rules generally limit the facility to one episodic event, however. See Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 85,732 (November 28, 2016).
[9] 40 C.F.R. § 262.13.
[10] U.S. EPA, “Hazardous Waste Generator Regulatory Summary,” available at:https://www.epa.gov/hwgenerators/hazardous-waste-generator-regulatory-summary.
[11] 40 C.F.R. § 262.13.
[12] See 40 C.F.R. § 262.13.
[13] Four factors are used to determine whether recycling is “legitimate.” 40 C.F.R. § 260.43(g). First, recycling must involve a hazardous secondary material that provides a useful contribution to the recycling process or to a product or intermediate of the recycling process. For example, the nicotine-containing materials may be the source of a valuable constituent (i.e., nicotine) recovered in the recycling process. Second, the recycling process must produce a valuable product or intermediate, which can be demonstrated by sale of the recycled product to a third party, by its use as an effective substitute for a commercial product, or by its use as ingredient in a process. Third, the generator and the recycler must manage the hazardous secondary material as a valuable commodity when it is under their control. This would entail management of nicotine-containing materials consistent with how raw nicotine is managed. Fourth, the product of the recycling process must be comparable to a legitimate product or intermediate. For example, the recycled product should meet widely recognized specifications for the raw material and not contain hazardous constituents in greater levels than a non-recycled analogue. See Letter from Barnes Johnson, EPA, to Scott DeMuth, g2revolution LLP (May 8, 2015), RCRA Online #14851.
[14] See, e.g., New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, “Compliance Advisory Update – Compliance Assistance Available for Vape Shops and Manufacturers” (June 20, 2017), available at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/advisories/2017-03.pdf.