This week, in a rare instance of a court directing a federal agency to take action, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ordered FDA to expedite the issuance of a final rule for cigarette graphic warnings. The order comes after the Court concluded that FDA “unlawfully withheld” or “unreasonably delayed” the promulgation of graphic health warnings as mandated by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The Tobacco Control Act requires FDA to issue regulations requiring color graphics depicting the health consequences of smoking on product labeling within 24 months after the date of enactment of the Act, or by June 22, 2011. According to FDA, however, the final rule is now expected to be completed in November 2021. Calling this an “extraordinary delay,” the Court stated that FDA’s duty to issue the graphic warnings rule by June of 2011 was “nondiscretionary.” Accordingly, the Court concluded that the statute and deadlines set forth by Congress continue to apply to the FDA — despite the D.C. Circuit’s vacatur and remand back to the agency in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Food & Drug Administration in 2012 based on First Amendment challenges. In coming to this conclusion, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani stated that “it cannot be the case that the FDA has freed itself from Congressional mandates and may now take the opportunity to promulgate this rule at whatever pace it chooses. While the vacatur may reset the two-year clock, it does not negate the FDA’s continuing obligation to comply with Congress’ deadlines.”

The Court did not accept FDA’s argument that the Agency had competing priorities because FDA failed to identify any single, specific competing priority. The Court also rejected any notion of FDA suffering from limited resources since CTP operations are funded by user fees and the amount of user fees collected in FY 2018 alone was $672,000,000 (even though FDA did not allege that limited resources were at issue in this case). Thus, in light of the original June 2011 timeline set forth by Congress, FDA’s current estimated timeline (and lack of progress in recent years), and the lack of competing priorities outlined in FDA’s brief, the Court found that FDA failed to convincingly show that it did not “unreasonably delay” promulgation of the final graphic health warnings rule for cigarette packs. As such, the court declined to defer to the Agency’s timeline. Instead, the Court has now given FDA a deadline of September 26, 2018 to provide the following:

  • an expedited schedule for the completion of outstanding studies for the graphic warnings;
  • the publication of the proposed graphic warnings rule for public comment;
  • review of public comments, and
  • issuance of a final graphic warnings rule.

According to FDA’s own Continue Reading Federal Court Forces FDA’s Hand on Graphic Warning Labels

Louisiana has redefined “vapor products” to include nicotine and non-nicotine products. The law became effective on May 30, 2018 when Governor John Bel Edwards signed HB239.

The definitional change applies to laws banning sales to minors, requiring retail permitting and prohibiting self-service displays and vending machines except under limited circumstances. Continue Reading Louisiana Broadens Vapor Laws’ Reach to Include Non-Nicotine Products

To mark the nine-year anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and the one-year anniversary of FDA’s Comprehensive Plan for Nicotine, FDA recently provided updates on efforts to improve its tobacco regulatory programs. In addition, FDA announced new initiatives that are designed to help industry have a better understanding of what is needed to submit complete and robust tobacco product applications. The stated objective of these efforts is to improve the transparency and efficiency of the premarket review process. Continue Reading FDA Announces its Plans to Issue Tobacco Product Application “Foundational” Rules

In connection with the FDA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPR”) addressing flavored tobacco products, a group of State Attorneys General has recommended that the agency ban all flavored tobacco products.  In their comments on the ANPR, the Attorneys General of New York, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island assert that the FDA should ban flavors (including menthol) in all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and electronic nicotine delivery systems (“ENDS”).  The existing flavor ban applies only to “characterizing” flavors in cigarettes, and allows for mentholated cigarettes. Continue Reading State Attorneys General, U.S. Senators Seek to Ban All Flavored Tobacco Products

With a related appeal pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, what will become of pending trial litigation in Cigar Association of America, et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Administration, et al., No. 1:16-cv-01460 (D.D.C.) (“Cigar Association”), and En Fuego Tobacco Shop LLC, et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., et al., No. 1:18-cv-1797 (D.D.C.) (“En Fuego”)?

It seems that the appeal will take the larger focus for now. Continue Reading Deeming Regulations Litigation Update—Uncertain Path Ahead for Dual Cigar-Industry Challenges Pending at the Trial Level; Appellate Proceedings Moving Forward

The FDA has advanced in its “procedural maneuvering” in three constitutional challenges to the Deeming Regulations. The challenges – premised on the First Amendment and on the Appointments Clause – were filed by vapor-industry plaintiffs represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation (“PLF”): Moose Jooce, et al. v. Food & Drug Admin., et al., No. 1:18-cv-203 (D.D.C.), Rave Salon, Inc. v. Gottlieb, et al., No. 3:18-cv-237 (N.D. Tex.), and Hoban, et al. v. Food & Drug Admin., et al., No. 0:18-cv-269 (D. Minn.). Continue Reading Deeming Regulations Litigation Update–U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Expected Forum for Three Appointments Clause Challenges

On June 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair.  The decision overruled decades of prior precedent holding that remote sellers of products – including tobacco products – ordinarily are not required to collect sales or excise taxes if they lack a physical presence in the purchaser’s state.  In Wayfair, the Court upheld a South Dakota statute that required sellers in other states to collect taxes for sales to South Dakota consumers if the seller annually delivers more than $100,000 worth of goods in South Dakota or makes more than 200 sales to South Dakota consumers. Continue Reading United States Supreme Court Decides South Dakota v. Wayfair, Overrules Decades of Precedent for Taxation of Remote Sales and Imposes New Responsibilities for Internet and Other Remote Sellers of Tobacco Products