AWMA President Scott Ramminger Presents Distributor Concerns to FDA’s CTP Officials at Stakeholder Meeting in Dallas
AWMA’s President Scott Ramminger testified on Wednesday, August 24, on behalf of the distribution industry at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) Stakeholder Discussion Series in Dallas, Texas. Ramminger attended the meeting along with the following AWMA distributor members: Steve Shing (GSC Enterprises, Inc.), Dick Dunham (Stephenson Wholesale Co.), Ricky Jones (Andalusia Distributing Co.), Nef Garcia (McLane Company, Inc.), Paul Francis (Farner-Bocken Co.) and Keith Canning (Pine State Trading Co).
Ramminger’s remarks followed the opening presentation given by the Director of the CTP, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, who told participants that FDA’s “ears are open to hear your suggestions and concerns” as he stressed the importance of this meeting as a way to promote meaningful engagement and dialogue between the agency and industry stakeholders. Deyton acknowledged that FDA currently regulates cigarettes, smokeless and RYO but has the intention to assert their regulatory jurisdiction over all tobacco products including cigars. And, Deyton urged industry stakeholders to take advantage of those public comment periods following the issuance of proposed regulations and guidances as a way of making concerns known. Deyton stated that the “FDA is required to respond to all significant comments” submitted as part of these public comment periods and that having “data and suggestions on how to make these proposed rules better is helpful.”
During his remarks, Ramminger outlined the significant role distributors play in the tobacco supply chain and stressed the fact that any new regulations or rules that the FDA implements have a direct impact upon our industry and the cost of doing business. Ramminger cautioned the agency to be mindful that such cost increases resulting from these regulations also fuels the already challenging contraband problem and he pointed to issues faced in Canada where almost 40% of the cigarettes sold are via the illegal channel.
Ramminger also expressed concern over the track and trace provisions of the 2009 Tobacco Control Act and urged agency officials to include distributors in discussions on this issue as they move forward on the report and recommendations provided under the law. Ramminger highlighted the continued need for unlimited sell-through provisions on any new regulations involving new product requirements similar to those provided under the descriptor ban and the graphic warning labels. Ramminger reiterated AWMA’s opposition to any ban on menthol and pointed up the need for the agency to better understand the distribution industry. Ramminger offered FDA officials an opportunity to visit a distributor business in an effort to improve their understanding of the industry and to help these agency representatives better understand the complexities involved in processing these tobacco products through the supply chain.
During the final wrap-up phase of the meeting, Dr. Deyton outlined the action items that he deemed as take aways from the discussion and listed AWMA’s concerns among those to be considered by the agency. Deyton also made mention of Ramminger’s suggestion that the FDA’s CTP improve their website in a more user friendly manner for those in industry. Deyton agreed that the agency should take a look at creating understandable Q and A items specifically aimed at each industry within the tobacco supply chain to enable businesses to more easily comply with new regulations and understand better where the agency is in terms of promulgating new proposals. And, Deyton underlined his agreement with industry with respect to the need to carefully consider any initiative that may result in further growth of the contraband market.
AWMA will continue to work to ensure the distributor voice is heard as implementation of the Tobacco Control Act continues and we are grateful to all our AWMA members – including Steve Shing, Dick Dunham, Keith Canning, Nef Garcia, Ricky Jones and Paul Francis - and all the others who took time to participate in the important meeting in Dallas, Texas.