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Robert Claiborne works primarily in the areas of litigation and compliance on behalf of tobacco manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and suppliers.

California voters have approved Senate Bill 793, which prohibits tobacco retailers from selling flavored tobacco products or tobacco product flavor enhancers. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court claiming that it is unconstitutional.

On November 8, 2022, California voters said “yes” to Proposition 31, a referendum on a 2020 law that would prohibit the retail sale of certain flavored tobacco products. The constitutionality of the referenced law, Senate Bill 793 (“SB793”), is at issue in a case filed the next day in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Bonta, et al., No. 3:22-cv-01755 (S.D. Cal.); however, the plaintiffs’ success in that case will likely depend on the development of favorable precedents in other cases pending before appellate courts.

Continue Reading California Voters Approve Flavored Tobacco Ban in Referendum; Is It Unconstitutional?

Dealing in goods subject to cigarette and other tobacco products (OTP) taxes presents considerable administrative burdens. The sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, on which all 50 states impose an excise tax, requires accurate bookkeeping, regular reporting, and tax remittance practices. In addition, manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers of these highly-regulated products will be the subject of audits by state revenue departments.

Continue Reading Practical Tips for Avoiding and Contesting Tobacco Tax Assessments

Over the past few years, at least five states and several hundred localities have passed, or attempted to pass, laws banning flavored tobacco products. There have been a number of challenges to those laws—few of which have been successful. In a recent ruling, the Washington County Circuit Court handed a win to businesses challenging a local ordinance (the Ordinance) seeking to impose a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Continue Reading Oregon Court Sides with Businesses Challenging Local Flavor Ban Ordinance

In determining whether the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits a state’s taxation of a remote seller, the U.S. Supreme Court for decades has upheld a tax if (1) there is a substantial nexus between the taxing state and the taxpayer; (2) the tax is fairly apportioned; (3) the tax does not discriminate against interstate commerce; and (4) the tax is fairly related to the taxing state’s provision of services to the taxpayer.[1]

What kind of nexus is substantial enough to allow a state to tax a business’s sales in interstate commerce? In its 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that a business’s physical presence in the taxing state is not required.[2] Describing the remote-seller litigants as “large, national companies that undoubtedly maintain an extensive virtual presence,” the Court held that substantial nexus was clear in view of “both the economic and virtual contacts” that the remote-seller litigants had with South Dakota.[3] The U.S. Supreme Court recited the general rule that substantial nexus exists when a taxpayer has availed itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on business in the taxing state, and it appeared to describe “virtual contacts” and “virtual presence” as follows: “Between targeted advertising and instant access to most consumers via any internet-enabled device, ‘a business may be present in a State in a meaningful way without’ that presence ‘being physical in the traditional sense of the term.’”[4] Wayfair left many questions unanswered, including whether (and, if so, how) “virtual contacts” and “virtual presence” may be required for a substantial nexus to tax in compliance with the commerce clause.

Continue Reading State Taxation of Remote Sellers: US Supreme Court Declines Review of First Post-Wayfair Decision from a State Supreme Court

The Department has issued updated guidance addressing remote sellers’ cigarette and tobacco tax responsibilities after the Minnesota Legislature’s mid-2021 amendments to the State’s cigarette and tobacco tax and tobacco product delivery sales statutes, Congress’ late-2020 amendment of the Jenkins Act, and a 2018 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on permissible state taxation of remote sales.

On May 9, 2022, the Minnesota Department of Revenue (the “Department”) issued Revenue Notice # 22‑02 on remote sellers’ tax payment responsibilities under the State’s cigarette and tobacco tax and tobacco product delivery sales statutes. The notice applies to all delivery sales after December 31, 2021, and it revokes and replaces the Department’s earlier notice on these subjects.
Continue Reading Minnesota Department of Revenue Revokes and Replaces Guidance on Remote Sellers’ Tobacco Tax Responsibilities

FDA reports that the progress of its review of popular vapor products’ pending PMTAs remains in line with its first report.

On July 28, 2022, FDA filed a status report in American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. FDA, et al., No. 8:18-cv-00883 (D. Md.), addressing its review of pending premarket tobacco applications (“PMTAs”) for certain popular vapor products.  FDA filed the status report pursuant to a court order previously covered on this blog.  This is FDA’s second status report filed pursuant to that order, the first having been filed on May 13.
Continue Reading Deeming Regulations Litigation Update – FDA Files Second Status Report on Pending Vapor Products PMTAs

Status report concerns FDA’s review of 240 PMTAs submitted on or before September 9, 2020, for vapor products with larger market shares.  FDA estimates that it will resolve most of these in the periods before July 2022 and from April through June 2023.

Pursuant to an order entered by Judge Paul W. Grimm in American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. FDA, et al., No. 8:18-cv-00883 (D. Md.), on May 13, 2022, FDA filed its first status report regarding its review of pending premarket tobacco applications (“PMTAs”) for certain popular vapor products.
Continue Reading Deeming Regulations Litigation Update – FDA Files Status Report on Pending PMTAs for Popular Vapor Products

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has denied the Plaintiffs’/Appellants’ petition for a rehearing en banc following a divided panel’s holding that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act neither expressly nor impliedly preempts Los Angeles County’s ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products.

On May 11, 2022, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc filed by Plaintiffs/Appellants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Inc., American Snuff Co., and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. (together, the “Plaintiffs/Appellants”) in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Los Angeles County, et al., No. 20-55930.  As discussed more fully by Troutman Pepper in Vapor Voice, the same panel earlier held in a split 2-1 decision that Los Angeles County’s flavored tobacco ban is not preempted by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, Pub. L. No. 111-31, 123 Stat. 1776 (June 22, 2009) (the “TCA”).
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing en Banc in Appeal over Preemption of Los Angeles County’s Flavored Tobacco Ban

New Virginia law addresses excise taxation and other requirements regarding remote retail sales of cigars and pipe tobacco to consumers in the Commonwealth.

On April 27, 2022, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 1199 and Senate Bill 748 regarding the application of the Commonwealth’s tobacco products tax on “remote retail sales” of cigars and pipe tobacco and related requirements.
Continue Reading Virginia Enacts Tobacco Products Tax Law Applicable to Remote Retail Sales of Cigars and Pipe Tobacco

Under Judge Grimm’s Revised Remedial Order, FDA must submit quarterly status reports regarding its review of pending PMTAs for certain popular vapor products.

On April 15, 2022, Judge Paul W. Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ordered  FDA to submit status reports to the Court and to the Plaintiffs in the case every ninety days, beginning on April 29th.
Continue Reading Deeming Regulations Litigation Update—Federal Court Exercises Even More Oversight over FDA’s PMTA Review