In an August 2017 Guidance, the FDA gave companies an extension to comply with certain deadlines for premarket review submissions, including “substantial equivalence exemption requests (SE EX requests), substantial equivalence reports (SE reports), and premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs).”
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As we previously reported here, on September 5, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts found that FDA “unlawfully withheld” and “unreasonably delayed” the promulgation of a rule mandating color graphic warnings for cigarettes, as set forth in the 2009 Tobacco Control Act. The Court ordered FDA to provide an accelerated timeline for the completion of its rulemaking. On October 5, 2018, FDA provided the Court an accelerated schedule that would result in the submission of the final rule for publication in the Federal Register by May 2021 (six months sooner than FDA’s initial, estimated timeline of November 2021).
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An Oregon vape shop owner filed a complaint this month against the State of Oregon over rules that prohibit the packaging of vaping products in a manner that appeals to minors. The plaintiffs, Paul Bates and No Moke Daddy LLC, doing business as Division Vapor, allege that the Oregon Health Authority’s regulations’ standard of being packaged in a manner that is attractive to minors is “vague, incomprehensible, and overbroad” and hinders freedom of expression and the ability of adult consumers to make informed purchasing decisions by preventing otherwise accurate product descriptors in labeling.
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In a Joint Status Report filed in federal court on December 13, Plaintiffs Cigar Association of America, Cigar Rights of America, and International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association requested the extension of the Food and Drug Administration’s harmful and potentially harmful constituent (HPHC) reporting deadline. The Plaintiffs have already obtained a delay of the cigar and pipe tobacco warning labeling requirements until after the resolution of the lawsuit. Now, Plaintiffs seek an extension of the approaching November 8, 2019 deadline for HPHC reporting for cigar and pipe tobacco products.
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A federal court recently dismissed a lawsuit filed the State of New York and the City of New York against FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight.  The plaintiffs alleged that FedEx knowingly shipped unstamped cigarettes to unauthorized recipients in violation of several laws, including the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (“CCTA”) the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (“PACT”) Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), New York State law, and a 2006 Assurance of Compliance (“AOC”) between the State and FedEx.
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On October 31, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a complaint in California state court seeking an injunction against a California-based e-cigarette company to bar online sales of vaping products after investigators alleged the companies targeted minors and failed to conduct proper age verification. By using fake emails and prepaid gift cards, investigators posing as teenage consumers were able to make online purchases from these companies without providing identification. Prosecutors also stated that the company targeted minors by glamorizing youth vaping on Instagram and other social media platforms, and also used packaging resembling fruit-flavored cereal, donuts, and other kid-friendly flavors.
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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
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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.
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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.).
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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.
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