Monday, April 30, 2018

FDA Blocks Consumer Access to New Smokeless Products


When Congress gave the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco in 2009, it specified that manufacturers wanting to sell a new product must get a “substantial equivalence” (SE) order demonstrating to the FDA that the product has the “same characteristics as a predicate tobacco product [i.e. on the market before February 15, 2007]; or has different characteristics than the predicate tobacco product but…does not raise different questions of public health.” (here)



Copenhagen brand moist snuff has been available in the U.S. since 1822.  The U.S. Tobacco Company (UST) had 17 different styles of the brand, including 5 pouches and 4 with wintergreen flavoring on the market in 2007.



It's worth examining UST's SE application submitted on November 13, 2015 for a variant to be called Copenhagen Bold Wintergreen Pouches.  According to the Troutman Sanders law firm blog (here):



“The Copenhagen Bold [WG Pouches] SE submission compared the new product, a portioned smokeless tobacco in pouches with a grandfathered product in the same format (pouched smokeless tobacco) but containing different tobacco.  UST had considered using a different grandfathered product – a loose tobacco product with the exact same blend and formula as Copenhagen Bold – but the FDA discouraged UST from doing so because the grandfathered product was in a different format.  At the FDA’s suggestion, UST designated the grandfathered loose tobacco product with the exact same tobacco blend and formula as Copenhagen Bold as a ‘surrogate’ product.”



Despite the company’s acquiescence in using its loose wintergreen snuff as the predicate product, the FDA denied the SE on July 13, 2017.  UST’s appeal of that decision was denied by the agency on January 2, 2018. The company sued the FDA on February 2, seeking to overturn the agency’s action. The filing is available here.



This lengthy, so far futile attempt to gain marketing approval for a simple variation of a moist snuff product that is associated with nearly zero health risks underscores the broken state of the FDA review process.



To be clear, my criticism of FDA is not intended to further the interests of any company, but rather to advance the health interests of American smokers who should be encouraged to switch to safer smoke-free cigarette substitutes. Limiting the market entry of potentially attractive cigarette alternatives reduces the chance that smokers will give up their dangerous habit.




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