Photo of Azim ChowdhuryPhoto of Eric GottingPhoto of John Gustafson

On March 27, 2018, a coalition of public health organizations including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Truth Initiative, the American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, as well as several individual physicians (collectively the “NGOs”) filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) ability to extend the compliance policy deadlines for premarket authorization applications for deemed tobacco products (Case No. 8:18-cv-00883). On July 10, 2018, the NGOs filed a motion for summary judgment, available here.

The case challenges FDA’s August 2017 Guidance Document, Extension of Certain Tobacco Product Compliance Deadlines Related to the Final Deeming Rule (the “Guidance”) which, among other things: (1) extended the deadlines for premarket applications for deemed tobacco products, such as e-liquids and vapor products, as well as cigars, hookah, and pipe tobacco; and (2) ended the one-year “sunset provision” in the initial compliance policy, permitting manufacturers to continue marketing deemed products that are the subject of timely filed premarket applications that have been accepted by FDA for scientific review.

The NGOs make three main arguments: (1) the Guidance unlawfully authorizes manufacturers to continue marketing newly-deemed tobacco products without obtaining the required FDA marketing order, contrary to the requirements of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (“TCA”); (2) the Guidance is an administrative “rule” and FDA issued it without providing the public notice and an opportunity to comment in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”);[1] and (3) the Guidance is arbitrary and capricious because it provided inadequate justification for suspending premarket review and did not account for the public health cost of the continued marketing of unreviewed new tobacco products. The NGOs seek to have the Guidance vacated, which could prove disastrous for the vapor industry.

We summarize the NGO’s motion in more detail below.

Background on Premarket Authorization and FDA Compliance Policy for Deemed Tobacco Products

When the “Deeming Rule” became effective on August 8, 2016, the FDA extended its tobacco product authority to previously unregulated categories of products including, but not limited to, e-liquids and vapor products, as well as cigars, hookah, pipe tobacco and heat-not-burn products.[2] Deemed tobacco products are now subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”), as amended by the TCA, including, most critically, the requirement that all new tobacco products obtain FDA premarket authorization. A new tobacco product is any product introduced or modified after the February 15, 2007 “grandfather date”. Because there are no known grandfathered e-liquids or vapor products, all such products, including those that have been on the market for years, are required to obtain FDA marketing authorization through the onerous Premarket Tobacco Product Application (“PMTA”) process, which is separately being challenged by the vapor industry.[3]

In the preamble to the Deeming Rule, although it chose not to amend the grandfather date for deemed products, FDA included a “compliance policy” which effectively created marketing grace periods for newly deemed, finished tobacco products that do not have FDA premarket authorization.[4] Pursuant to the compliance policy, manufacturers were permitted to continue marketing e-liquids and vapor products in the U.S. that were on the market on August 8, 2016 until the end of the compliance period, at which time a PMTA would be due. Initially, this compliance period was only 24 months after the effective date of the rule, meaning PMTAs would have been due by August 8, 2018 for all vapor products.[5]

Further, the initial compliance policy created a marketing sunset period that permitted manufacturers of products for which premarket applications were submitted to continue sales for only an additional 12 months, pending FDA review of the applications. After that, if FDA had not yet ruled on an application, it would “consider, on a case-by-case basis, whether to defer enforcement of the premarket authorization requirements for a reasonable time period.”[6]  In other words, companies that submitted PMTAs for vapor products by August 8, 2018 would only be permitted to continue marketing the subject products until August 8, 2019, after which they would have to remove the products from the market while FDA reviewed the applications, no matter how long that would take, unless the Agency granted an exception.

However, in July 2017, FDA announced a new “comprehensive regulatory plan to shift the trajectory of tobacco-related disease, death” that, among other things, extended the premarket application compliance period for non-combustibles, including e-liquids and vapor products, until August 8, 2022. In other words, those products on the market as of August 8, 2016 can now remain on the market at least until August 8, 2022; after that date, only products that are the subject of PMTAs that have been accepted for review can remain on the market. FDA also eliminated the 12-month sunset period, allowing companies to continue marketing products while FDA reviews the PMTAs. FDA formalized the new deadlines in its August 2017 Guidance.

Argument No. 1: The Guidance’s authorization to continue marketing newly-deemed tobacco products without the required FDA marketing order is contrary to the requirements of the TCA.

The NGOs argue first that the Guidance is contrary to the mandates of the TCA.  They emphasize that the TCA directs that an FDA order authorizing a manufacturer to sell a new tobacco product “is required” before that product “may be introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce.”[7] Therefore, the NGOs argue, both the Guidance’s extension of PMTA deadlines and its compliance policy effectively grant permission to market new tobacco products before FDA authorizes their sale, contrary to the TCA’s requirements.

The NGOs further note that the TCA requires that, “as promptly as possible, but in no event later than 180 days after receipt of a PMTA,” FDA “shall” issue an order that the new product may or may not be introduced.[8] The NGOs argue that this requirement renders the Guidance’s revised compliance policy unlawful because the policy permits the indefinite sale of new tobacco products without FDA ever having to complete premarket review.

The NGOs also address a defense likely to be invoked by FDA—that of “enforcement discretion,” the principle that, in the absence of statutory text to the contrary, executive agencies prioritize their own obligations, thereby reserving to their discretion the ability to effectively delay enforcement. The NGOs argue that the TCA does not grant FDA discretion to delay and that publishing a new policy that authorizes conduct Congress made unlawful is not within an agency’s enforcement discretion as the term is understood by courts.

Argument No. 2: The Guidance is a “rule” and FDA issued it without providing the public notice and an opportunity to comment in violation of the APA. 

Second, the NGOs contend that the Guidance is effectively a final rule and thus must undergo the procedural requirements of a rule, including the obligation to give the public notice of the proposed rule and an opportunity to make comments.[9]

The NGOs argue that the Guidance is a “rule” within the meaning of the APA because it affects the “rights and obligations” of stakeholders and “constrains the agency’s discretion.”[10] According to the NGOs, the Guidance creates a “right” to market products for several years without a marketing order from FDA and constrains FDA to engage in a premarket review or to bring enforcement actions against manufacturers marketing new products without first obtaining an order. The NGOs dismiss the Guidance’s disclaimer language that it is not “binding” by citing to case law stating that courts look at the “actual function and effect” of guidance over how it labels itself.

Argument No. 3: The Guidance is arbitrary and capricious because it provided inadequate justification for suspending premarket review and did not account for the public health cost of the continued marketing of unreviewed new tobacco products.

Continuing under the premise that the Guidance is a “rule” and thus a “final agency action” as those terms are defined by APA case law, the NGOs argue that the Guidance must be struck down because it is “arbitrary and capricious.”[11] An agency action is arbitrary and capricious under the APA if it is not the product of reasoned agency decision-making.

The NGOs maintain that FDA did not advance an explanation for the Guidance. Agencies must consider factors considered important by Congress when passing the law and other important aspects of the problem addressed by the statute (the TCA in this case).[12] Further, an agency must show that there are good reasons for a change in policy.[13] FDA published a press release before the Guidance explaining industry’s need for more time to comply with PMTA deadlines,[14] but the NGOs allege that the press release’s reasoning is vague and insufficient and therefore not persuasive.

Finally, the NGOs argue that the Guidance’s effect ultimately has a detrimental impact on public health, particularly youth. The NGOs assert that the detrimental effect to public health outweighs any advantage gained by the Guidance’s effects.

Potential Impact on the Vapor Industry

If successful, the NGO’s lawsuit, which paints an unfavorable, and inaccurate, portrait of a vapor industry bent on targeting and addicting minors could have a devasting impact for vapor companies. If the Guidance is vacated, for example, and the original compliance policy reinstated, vapor products without grandfathered status or premarket authorization, of which there are none, may have to be immediately removed from the market. This would not only be potentially devasting to the public health, as millions of vapers may go back to smoking cigarettes, but it would also put thousands of small companies out of business.

The case has been assigned to Judge Paul Grimm of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. FDA’s response to the motion is due August 7, 2018. We will continue to monitor the progress of this lawsuit and will provide a summary of FDA’s response.

____________________________________________________________________

[1] 5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq.; 5 U.S.C. § 553.

[2] Deeming Tobacco Products to be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; Restrictions on the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warning Statements for Tobacco Products, 81 Fed. Reg. 28,974 (May 10, 2016).

[3] Alternative premarket authorization pathways exist through submission of Substantial Equivalence (“SE”) Reports and SE Exemption Requests, but those pathways require reference to a grandfathered or predicate tobacco product, and thus are not available for the e-liquids and vapor products.

[4] 81 Fed. Reg. at 28,978.

[5] 81 Fed. Reg. at 28,978.

[6] 81 Fed. Reg. at 28,978.

[7] 21 U.S.C. §§ 387j(a)(2), (c)(1)(A)(i).

[8] 21 U.S.C. § 387j(c)(1)(A).

[9] N.C. Growers’ Ass’n, Inc. v. UFW, 702 F.3d 755, 764 (4th Cir. 2012).

[10] Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 302 (1979) (internal quotation omitted); McLouth Steel Prods. Corp. v. Thomas, 838 F.2d 1317, 1320 (D.C. Cir. 1988).

[11] 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A).

[12] Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n of US., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

[13] FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 556 U.S. 502, 515 (2009).

[14] FDA News Release, “Protecting American Families: Comprehensive Approach to Nicotine and Tobacco,” https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Speeches/ucm569024.htm (July 18, 2017) (last accessed: 08/02/18).

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On June 18, 2018, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb delivered remarks on “FDA’s Nicotine and Tobacco Regulation and the Key Role of Regulatory Science” at the Tobacco Regulatory Science Program Meeting.[1] While addressing the importance of regulatory science to inform FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) regulatory efforts, Commissioner Gottlieb focused a portion of his remarks on the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) as tobacco harm reduction or smoking cessation tools and FDA’s role in their regulation.

“Preservation of E-Cigarettes”

According to Commissioner Gottlieb, utilizing scientific evidence and supporting new research to inform tobacco regulatory actions that protect public health is one of the primary missions of FDA’s CTP. Utilizing regulatory science to better understand e-cigarettes, Commissioner Gottlieb confirmed again that not all tobacco products are equally harmful, but that a “continuum of risk” exists, stating, “[w]e believe in the concept of a continuum of risk related to tobacco products, and we believe there is a role for modified risk products. Further, we want to preserve e-cigs as one among a number of possible options for adult smokers and believe that fully transitioning smokers to ENDS can reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco use.” Preservation of e-cigs as a possible option for adult smokers entails better understanding “the potential benefits of electronic nicotine products as smoking cessation tools.”

In his remarks, the Commissioner highlighted a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), entitled “Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes.” You can read a summary of that report in a previous blog post here. Commissioned by FDA, the report makes clear, among other things, the reduced harm of e-cigarettes compared to smoking cigarettes and that completely switching from regular use of combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes results in reduced short-term adverse health outcomes in several organ systems.[2]

Acknowledging those findings, Commissioner Gottlieb noted, “[p]otentially less harmful products – including the wide diversity of ENDS and other novel tobacco products – must be put through an appropriate series of regulatory gates to fully evaluate their risks and maximize their potential benefits.”

The Commissioner’s praise of vapor products as a potential reduced harm alternative for smokers, however, apparently does not apply to adolescents, for whom FDA maintains there is never a good reason to use any tobacco product, reduced harm or not – a position that has been criticized in some public health circles.

“Appropriate Series of Regulatory Gates” in the Context of the Deeming Rule Appeal

The Commissioner’s remarks on e-cigarettes were delivered in the midst of a lawsuit filed by Nicopure Labs, LLC and the Right to be Smoke-Free Coalition (appellants) challenging aspects of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA) and FDA’s Deeming Rule now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This blog has been closely following the litigation, previously summarizing Appellants’ opening brief, as well as FDA’s brief and appellants reply brief. A list of all briefs can be found at the end of this blog post.

The Commissioner’s June 18 remarks, acknowledging the benefits of e-cigarettes as tools for adult smoking cessation, follow previous statements by Commissioner Gottlieb, the agency itself, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and an FDA-commissioned report acknowledging the lower risk associated with e-cigarettes in comparison to combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes’ potential public health benefits. As set forth at the outset of appellants’ final reply brief in the Deeming Rule appeal, those statements and findings include:

  • FDA stated numerous times during the rulemaking that vapor products are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.[3]
  • In announcing its Comprehensive Plan for regulating tobacco and nicotine, FDA recognized it must “strik[e] an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging development of innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than cigarettes.”[4]
  • FDA Commissioner Gottlieb and Mitch Zeller, Director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that vapor products, when combined with measures to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes, “represent[] a promising foundation for a comprehensive approach to tobacco harm reduction.”[5]
  • One of FDA’s supporting amici, the ACS, recently determined, “[b]ased on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes,” and concluded “switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products.”[6]
  • A recent NAS report commissioned by FDA, which the Commissioner mentioned in his June 18 remarks, confirms vaping is less risky than smoking.  The report, which is based on a review of over 800 articles, found: (i) conclusive evidence that completely substituting vaping with smoking reduces exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens; (ii) current evidence shows vapor products are less harmful than cigarettes; (iii) substituting vaping for smoking significantly reduces levels of biomarkers of exposure to toxicants; and (iv) vaping exclusively might be useful as a cessation aid in smokers.”[7]

Despite these recent statements, FDA continues to take a hard line in the pending appeal, where the agency argues: (1) the Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) provision in Section 911 of the TCA does not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; (2) the free sample ban is a “price regulation,” so it is not subject to First Amendment protections; and (3) the Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA) process was statutorily required and did not authorize nor require FDA to modify those requirements for vapor products. Each of these positions, as explained by appellants in the appeal, work against promoting continuum of risk and achieving risk reduction:

  1. Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) Claims: FDA’s defense of the MRTP provision will ultimately prevent vapor companies from making truthful statements and conveying information that would help adult consumers make informed decisions regarding vaping. As set out in appellants’ briefs, the incredibly onerous and expensive MRTP authorization process, which no company has been able to achieve yet, is ultimately a restriction on the First Amendment rights of consumers in the marketplace to obtain product-related information so they can make educated decisions.
  2. Free Sample Ban: Similarly, FDA downplays free samples as a mere “price regulation,” which are not subject to First Amendment challenge. To the contrary, and as demonstrated by appellants in their briefs, free samples allow manufacturers to pass on product information that adult consumers demand when contemplating a switch from more harmful cigarettes, and are thus protected under the First Amendment.
  3. The Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA): FDA’s one-size-fits-all PMTA process for vapor products, which involves satisfying all pre-market review requirements for less risky vapor products, will also force the vast majority of vapor companies and less harmful vapor products out of the market absent some tailoring of certain requirements.

Oral arguments in the Deeming Rule appeal have been scheduled for September 11, 2018 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Links to all appeal briefs:

  • February 12, 2018: Appellants Nicopure and Right to be Smoke-Free file opening brief
  • February 20, 2018: Amicus briefs in support of appellants filed by: Washington Legal Foundation, NJOY, State of Iowa and CASAA
  • May 2, 2018: Appellee FDA’s brief filed
  • May 9, 2018: Amicus briefs in support of FDA filed by: Public Citizen, Yale Law School Scholars, Public Health Law Center, and various public health groups (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Truth Initiative)
  • May 16, 2018: Appellants Nicopure and Right to be Smoke-Free file reply brief
  • June 5, 2018: Appellee FDA files a final copy of its opening brief with updated citations to the administrative record
  • June 6, 2018: Appellants Nicopure and Right to Smoke-Free file final copies of their opening and reply briefs with updated citations to the administrative record

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.

[1] Gottlieb, S. (2018, June 18). FDA’s Nicotine and Tobacco Regulation and the Key Role of Regulatory Science. Speech presented at Tobacco Regulatory Science Program Meeting, White Oak, MD. Available at https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Speeches/ucm611033.htm.

[2] 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.

[3] Opening brief of appellants at 7. Available at Gottlieb, S. (2018, June 18). FDA’s Nicotine and Tobacco Regulation and the Key Role of Regulatory Science. Speech presented at Tobacco Regulatory Science Program Meeting, White Oak, MD. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Speeches/ucm611033.htm.

[4] FDA News Release, FDA Announces Comprehensive Regulatory Plan to Shift Trajectory of Tobacco-Related Disease, Death (July 28, 2017), https://tinyurl.com/y7bybf6c.

[5] Scott Gottlieb, et al., Perspective: A Nicotine-Focused Framework for Public Health, New Eng. J. Med. (Sept. 21, 2017), https://tinyurl.com/yatrpq68.

[6] ACS, Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes (Feb. 15, 2018),  https://tinyurl.com/ybadn9cl; see also a summary of ACS’s most recent position statement in a previous blog post, available at https://www.thecontinuumofrisk.com/2018/06/american-cancer-society-acknowledges-reduced-harm-electronic-nicotine-delivery-systems-warns-dangers-misleading-consumers/.

[7] NAS, PUBLIC HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF E-CIGARETTES, at S-9, 18-2, 18-13, 1823, https://tinyurl.com/ycxlymgf.

Photo of Azim ChowdhuryPhoto of Benjamin Wolf

 

 

Tobacco product manufacturing establishments in the United States must register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) immediately upon beginning manufacturing operations (e.g., the manufacture, preparation, compounding, or processing of a tobacco product).  As part of the registration process, establishment operators must submit a detailed list of products manufactured at the establishment, along with copies of all labeling (see our full summary of the registration requirement here).  This registration must be renewed annually before midnight on December 31 (Eastern time) every year, and product lists must be updated bi-annually: by midnight June 30 and December 31 every year.

This means that operators of manufacturing establishments of newly deemed products (e.g., vapor, cigars, hookah, etc.) on the market as of August 8, 2016 that have made changes to their product offerings must update their product lists with FDA by tomorrow, June 30, 2018, or as soon as possible to avoid FDA enforcement (considering the likelihood that FURLS may crash, the sooner you start this process, the better). Specific examples of changes that need to be updated (in FURLS, if you used that system to register online) include (1) discontinuing products on your product list that you are no longer actively manufacturing, (2) adding new products that are now being manufactured (e.g., co-packers now manufacturing pre-August 8, 2016 products that were not on the co-packers’ initial product list), (3) adding a new manufacturing location for products already listed by another establishment, or (4) labeling changes (including rebranding) of existing products.

Note that if you are planning to update your labels to comply with FDA’s nicotine addiction warning and other labeling requirements (that go into effect on August 10, 2018) after June 30, you have until December 31, 2018 to update your product listing with the revised labels.

If you have any questions about Registration and Product Listing or any of the other Tobacco and Control Act requirements, contact Azim Chowdhury (202.434.4230, chowdhury@khlaw.com) or Ben Wolf (202.434.4103, wolf@khlaw.com). For more information on our Tobacco and E-vapor Practice in general, visit www.khlaw.com/evapor. Follow Keller and Heckman Tobacco and E-Vapor Partner Azim Chowdhury on Twitter.

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On June 11, 2018, the American Cancer Society (“ACS”) released a statement entitled, “The American Cancer Society Public Health Statement on Eliminating Combustible Tobacco Use in the United States’ (“Statement”).[1] The Statement sets forth the ACS’s goal of eliminating exposure to combustible tobacco smoke and provides three strategies for the ACS to enhance its approach in tobacco prevention and control.

This Statement follows its earlier “Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes,” released on February 15, 2018, which acknowledged, for the first time, that e-cigarettes, also known as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), play an important role in helping certain smokers quit.[2] In that prior position, ACS suggested that physicians should encourage individuals that will not use FDA-approved cessation medicines to switch to using ENDS.[3] This latest Statement takes that position further, as the ACS commits to joining in on efforts to better understand how or whether ENDS might be integrated into evidence-based cessation options, and the organization also warns about the misinformation given to consumers about those products.

 “Rapidly Changing Tobacco Marketplace” and the Consumer Misperception about ENDS

The ACS’s stated highest priority is to eliminate cancer caused by tobacco use as cigarette smoking is the leading cause of mortality in the U.S.[4] Placing its Statement in the context of what is calls, “the rapidly changing tobacco marketplace today,” the ACS acknowledges that tobacco control has increasingly become a social justice issue, as the percentage of smokers at the greatest risk (e.g. because of their low socioeconomic status, lower educational attainment, etc.) has risen markedly.[5]

Given today’s landscape, the Statement highlights the need for consumers to receive accurate information about different tobacco products and the role that nicotine plays in disease.[6] Citing numerous studies and reports, the Statement posits that although the “current generation ENDS are markedly less harmful than combustible tobacco products,”[7] “[m]any adults believe, erroneously, that ENDS are as harmful as combustible tobacco products, and the level of public understanding has deteriorated overtime.”[8] The Statements cites the Monitoring the Future study, which reported that as of 2017, “e-cigarettes have one of the lowest levels of perceived risk for regular use of all drugs, including alcohol,” among adolescents.[9] And to contrast e-cigarette use with combustible (burned) tobacco products, the Statement notes that while ENDS delivers nicotine, flavor additives and other chemicals, they do not actually burn tobacco – a process that yields an estimated 7000 chemicals, including at least 70 carcinogens.[10]

Three Strategies to Eliminate All Combustible Tobacco Use: Lending Support to Further Utilizing ENDS for Tobacco Cessation

The Statement outlines three separate strategies to eliminate all combustible tobacco use-all of which involve some component linked to ENDS.

  • Promote Increased Access and Utilization of Cessation Options for Smokers, With an Emphasis on Preventing Dual Use

As part of its first strategic effort, the ACS will work to promote tobacco-cessation strategies and develop health care provider and consumer-facing materials with information on the risks associated with tobacco products and cessation treatment options.[11] As a part of this communications strategy, the ACS notes that it intends to communicate to consumers that current-generation ENDS are less harmful than combustible tobacco products, and it provides that the ACS will contribute to research to determine how or whether ENDS might be integrated into evidence-based cessation options.[12]

  • Prevent Initiation of ENDS by Youth and Other High-Risk Demographic Groups

Despite noting the lesser risks associated with ENDS relative to combustible tobacco use, the Statement still holds that protecting youth from cigarette smoking and the use of novel tobacco products remains a priority.[13] The ACS will advocate for tobacco-free policies, including ENDS in all cases, as well as for policies to raise the minimum age for sale of all tobacco products, including ENDS.[14] The ACS makes clear that it will continue to oppose what it calls, “the widespread exposure of youth to e-cigarette advertising.”[15]

  • Promote and Support a Comprehensive Tobacco and Nicotine Regulatory Framework

As part of its broader regulatory strategy, the Statement describes a “continuum of risk” for tobacco products, noting that while science is mixed, ENDS are likely to be much less harmful that combustible tobacco products.[16] Among other proposals, the Statement again commits to conduct further scientific research, including research related to the short-term and long-term risks of using ENDS and the impact of ENDS on tobacco use behavior.[17]

Conclusion

Taking its February 15, 2018 statement on electronic cigarettes one step further, this latest announcement by the ACS makes clear that the organization intends to contribute to further research on whether e-cigarettes may be utilized for tobacco cessation strategies. However, the ACS continues to advocate for tobacco-free policies, which include the use of ENDS, and the organization remains concerned about preventing youth initiation of ENDS, which has fallen dramatically since 2015, along with all tobacco use.

[1] The American Cancer Society Public Health Statement on Eliminating Combustible Tobacco Use in the United States (Clifford E. Douglas, et al., 2018) available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21455 (hereinafter, referred to as the “Statement”).

[2] American Cancer Society Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes (2018) available at https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/e-cigarette-position-statement.html.

[3] Id.

[4] Statement, supra n.1. at 1.

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

[6] Id., supra n.1. at 2.

[7] Id., supra n.1. at 4.

[8] Id., supra n.1. at 1.

[9] Johnston LD, Miech RA, O’Malley PM, Bachman JG, Schulenberg JE, Patrick ME. Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975‐2017. Overview, Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2018. monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf‐overview2017.pdf.

[10] Id., supra n.1. at 1.

[11] Id., supra n.1. at 2-3.

[12] Id., supra n.1. at 3.

[13] Id., supra n.1. at 3.

[14] Id., supra n.1. at 4.

[15] Id., supra n.1. at 4.

[16] Id., supra n.1. at 4.

[17] Id., supra n.1. at 5.

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The 3rd Annual Keller and Heckman E-Vapor and Tobacco Law Symposium will be held on January 29th-30th, 2019.

Registration for this program will be launching in late September 2018. 

Seminar Details
Dates:
January 29 – January 30, 2019

Location:
Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay 

Price:
$899 early rate
$1,099 regular rate

More information on speakers and a final agenda will be available soon. We look forward to seeing you at the program!

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

For additional information, please contact:

Caryn Wick
Marketing Director
Keller and Heckman LLP
wick@khlaw.com

Photo of Azim ChowdhuryPhoto of Benjamin Wolf

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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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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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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