Puff Bar Owner Files $75 Million Copyright Suit

Credit: Puff Bar

DS Technology Licensing, the owner of registered trademarks associated with the Puff Bar vapor device, and Puff Inc., an authorized US distributor, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against over 20 Chinese and American companies accused of distributing counterfeit vaping devices, according to a story on businesswire.com.

The companies included as defendants include international manufacturer and distributor CACUQ, US distributors, e-commerce companies, and brick and mortar retail stores. The lawsuit addresses both counterfeit “Puff Bar” vapor devices as well as knockoff products identified as “Puff Smart,” “Puff Mini,” “Puff Stig,” and “Airis Puff” and seeks $50 million in restitutionary and $25 million in punitive damages.

Defendants in the lawsuit have infringed on the famous “Puff” and “Puff Bar” marks by introducing competing devices which use the stylized “Puff” associated with Puff Bar Vapor Devices as well as by openly selling fake or counterfeit Puff Bar vapor devices. Defendants are believed to be only a small number of the violators, as the anti-counterfeit verification system at puffbar.com has identified thousands of retail stores at which consumers bought devices which failed the check.

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UKVIA: U.K. Vape Shops Well-Positioned for Reopening

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The entrepreneurial spirit displayed by vape shops during the U.K. government’s 10-week coronavirus lockdown will help them bounce back after the economy reopens, according to the U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA).

On Monday, the government announced it would allow vape shops to reopen June 15.

The UKVIA said it is “immensely proud” of vaping businesses for the responsible approach they have taken during the lockdown.

John Dunne

“The response from the industry to the challenging conditions has been both staggering and exemplary,” said John Dunne, director at UKVIA. “I know that our members that make up a large share of the vaping market have been working around the clock to provide online and home delivery services to the 3.2 million vapers across the country.

Dunne believes that the industry will be well placed to more than meet the social distancing guidance when shops reopen.

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Consumer Group: Harm Reduction Is a Human Right

Photo: Horst Winkler from Pixabay

The European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) is calling on policymakers to recognize the benefits of tobacco harm reduction in advance of World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

According to ETHRA, reduced-risk products such as e-cigarettes and snus are providing a gateway out of smoking for millions of Europeans, yet across the continent, consumer access to these products is being denied or is under threat.

Today, the organization launched a manifesto to promote appropriate regulation of innovative solutions for people who wish to continue using nicotine in far safer forms than smoking tobacco, as well as on behalf of the many smokers who may be able to quit through switching to these products in the future.

Among other things, the manifesto calls for access to harm reduction, including tobacco harm reduction, to be recognized as a human right; for consumers of safer nicotine products to be recognized as essential stakeholders in discussions of policy; and for the regulation for safer nicotine products to reflect the risks relative to the risks from smoking. 

What’s more, regulators must recognize that having a wide choice of products and flavors is key to the success of safer nicotine products in enabling people to stop smoking, according to the manifesto. Regulation must consider the harm to adults when considering bans intended to protect youth, and tax policy must consider that high taxation of safer nicotine products increases rates of smoking.

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South Africa Vape Group Decries Tobacco Link

The South African vaping industry is demanding to be allowed to sell its products online and for delivery during lockdown level3. They also want to be disassociated from the tobacco sector.

Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) chief executive Asanda Gcoyi told The Star that the narrative that vapour products, cigarettes and tobacco products were the same was problematic, according to a story posted on iol.co.za. “Vaping is not smoking, those are two different things. Both vaping and cigarettes contain nicotine, but nicotine is not what kills people in smoking, people die because of the tar,” she said.

Gcoyi added that categorising them together caused serious problems, because of the global agenda of harm reduction. “There are world associations that are pushing for tobacco harm reduction and South Africa is one of those countries, so it baffles us that we know what we know, yet we’re choosing to pretend that we don’t know the science and that vaping is less harmful,” she said.

The VPASA is calling for the government to allow vapour products to be purchased online and for delivery during lockdown level 3, according to the story.

The chief executive said the lockdown had been very bad for the vapour products industry, because the sector largely consisted of small businesses. She added that most of the business owners were former smokers who found a safe alternative and then opened shops.

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Report: CBD Drink Sales to Reach $2.8 Billion by 2025

A recent report states that the global cannabis beverages market size is expected to reach $2.8 Billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 17.8 percent. The report by Grand View Research looked at alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages using either Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“By component, the market is segmented into Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The demand of THC infused cannabis beverages is majorly driven by rising product demand from adult consumers for recreational purposes,” the report states. “Rising demand for the therapeutic effects of the component along with the euphoria it provides is expected to bode well for the growth of the segment in the forthcoming years.”

I contrast, the CBD infused cannabis drinks are registered the fastest growth in (prior years). Also, the demand is expected to witness a surge over the forecasted period owing to the non-psychoactive properties of CBD, according to the report. Lack of psychoactive effect in the CBD drinks is widening its scope for usage of the drinks in medical purposes.

Many consumers are considering CBD drinks as a wellness and anti-inflammatory products, such as kombucha-a probiotic drink. This drink can potentially be used for treating chronic pain, anxiety, substance use disorders and central nervous system diseases. These factors are expected to boost the adoption of the product, resulting in the growth of the segment.”

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BAT: Latent Covid-19 Vaccine Ready for Human Trials

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British American Tobacco (BAT) said on Friday is ready to test its potential Covid-19 vaccine using proteins from tobacco leaves on humans, after it generated a positive immune response in pre-clinical trials, reports Reuters.

Once it gets approval from the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) for the vaccine, the company plans to start testing on humans.

In April BAT announced it was developing a Covid-19 vaccine from tobacco leaves and could produce 1 million to 3 million doses per week if it got the support of government agencies and the right manufacturers.

Multiple companies from a variety of sectors have been racing to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, with some of the vaccines already in human trials. Experts have suggested that a Covid-19 vaccine could take 12-18 months to develop.

On Friday, BAT said it had submitted a pre-investigative new drug application to the FDA and that the agency had acknowledged the submission. BAT said it was also talking with other government agencies around the world about the vaccine.

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New York’s Ban on Flavored Vapor Products Begins May 18

Credit: Dylan Nolte

Sales of flavored vapor products come to close in the U.S. state of New York at retail stores beginning Monday May 18. Monday also brings a close to the sale of all tobacco products at pharmacies.

“Healthcare-related entities should not be in the business of selling tobacco, the leading cause of preventable death in New York State,” wrote Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a press release. “Ending the sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products in pharmacies will help reduce the availability, visibility and social acceptability of tobacco use, especially to youth.”

The measure also makes it illegal to sell electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) online, by phone and by mail order.

New York became the first state in the country to ban flavored electronic cigarettes in September of last year. Cuomo announced the decision as part of a series of efforts to combat the increase in young people using vape products. Cuomo said in a statement that it was “undeniable” that flavors like bubblegum and cotton candy are deliberately designed to target youths.

 

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Los Angeles Vape Shops Challenging Flavor Ban

Credit: John Caroro

A new Los Angeles County ordinance that prevents the sale of flavored tobacco products is being challenged in court by vape shop owners.

On May 4, CA Smoke & Vape Association and Ace Smoke Shop filed a federal lawsuit against the rule that also requires businesses to obtain two additional licenses and imposes new tobacco product standards according to legalnewsline.com, the “great majority” of vapor products and devices will be prohibited, the lawsuit says. It complains that products containing THC are exempted, even though it is “the primary source linked to the outbreak” of recent illnesses, the lawsuit states.

“Similarly, the ordinance makes no distinction between the black-market vaping products at the center of that outbreak and the FDA-regulated products produced by legitimate manufacturers,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, the ordinance implements a blanket prohibition on the sale of flavored tobacco products to all persons, threatening to destroy an entire industry and the livelihoods of Los Angeles County residents.”

The plaintiffs in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case number 2:20-cv-04065 are represented by Jawlakian Law Group.

 

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India’s Vapor Ban’s Unintended Consequences

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A small but burgeoning product category was blighted when India prohibited the import, production, advertising and sale of vapor products in late 2019. The nationwide ban came after several states and union territories had implemented similar restrictions on electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) in previous years.

“This was the culmination of a five-year effort to ban e-cigarettes, which began in 2014 when the central government set up three panels to advise on the way forward,” explains Samrat Chowdhery, founder and director of the Association of Vapers India (AVI). “The way these committees were constituted—staffed with anti-tobacco harm reduction [THR] tobacco control experts and government officials—the outcomes were pre-decided and all three recommended a ban.”

Since then, the government had been turning on the screws. Opposition by consumers and later the vapor industry delayed the process but failed to prevent Parliamentary action. “Because of this uncertainty from the start, the e-cigarette market in India grew haphazardly without the involvement of major industry players and much below its potential,” laments Chowdhery.

Reliable data on India’s fragmented vapor market at the time of the ban are hard to obtain. Euromonitor reckons that around 0.6 percent of Indians used ENDS in 2018—a figure Chowdhery calls “conservative”—up from the 0.2 percent the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated for 2016–2017.

With online platforms being the key purchasing channels, according to Euromonitor, the Indian vapor industry comprised mainly small businesses—retailers, wholesalers, e-liquid manufacturers and a few vape shops, according to Chowdhery. “Devices were not made in India, relying solely on imports from China,” he says. “Still, the outlook for the market was good, slated to grow at 60 percent per year until 2022, following Euromonitor’s India report.”

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U.S. Fourth Circuit Denies PMTA Appeal

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The Fourth Circuit on Monday dismissed an appeal from various vaping groups challenging a compliance deadline for vapor products. The decision states that January directives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have rendered the appeal moot.

In a per curiam opinion, the appellate judges held that guidance issued by the FDA in January moots the vape groups’ appeal because that guidance supersedes older directives from August 2017 at issue in the appeal and leaves “no possible meaningful relief” that the court could grant, according to law360.com.

“Any ruling by this court as to the procedural or substantive reasonableness of the August 2017 guidance would amount to nothing more than an advisory opinion,” the court said.

The appeal stems from a Maryland district court ruling that ordered the agency to set a May 2020 deadline for premarket tobacco product applications (PMTA) on smokeless tobacco products. The FDA, along with various health and anti-vaping groups, had argued that the January guidance restricting the sale of flavored, cartridge-based vapes rendered moot the vape groups’ appeal.

“Because the enforcement timetable for e-cigarettes set out in the January 2020 guidance is independent of the district court’s order, an order by this court reversing the district court would have no effect on FDA’s enforcement of the statute and regulations against e-cigarette manufacturers,” the agency had previously said.

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Juul Moving to D.C.

Photo: Jordan Whitfield

Juul Labs is moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.

The company has faced much regulatory backlash in the past years as they have been accused of marketing to youth and faced many lawsuits. Moving headquarters to Washington will put the company closer to regulators and distance it from “Silicon Valley’s growth-at-all-costs culture,” according to people familiar with the matter.

The move follows other restructuring efforts, such as cutting the workforce, closing some U.S. offices, and scaling back in Europe and Asia.

Juul Labs will remain a large presence in San Francisco, where the company will continue product and software development.

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Struggling for Survival

Photo: VPZ
The vapor industry is suffering serious hardships due to closures caused by Covid-19.

By Timothy S. Donahue

Several countries have considered vape shops essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Countries such as Spain, France and New Zealand have allowed e-cigarette users to continue to have access to nicotine without returning to combustible cigarettes. In many countries such as the U.K. and the U.S., however, vape shops have been forced to close and many business owners say they may never be able to recover.

In the U.K., VPZ, the country’s largest vapor retailer, vowed to keep its shops open. On March 20, the company urged British leaders to follow the lead of other European countries and allow all 155 VPZ stores across the U.K. to be added to the list of essential businesses. That request was denied. On March 23, VPZ announced it would be closing all its locations. In an email, Doug Mutter, director of compliance and manufacturing for VPZ, said the company was disappointed with the lack of explanation from the government concerning the status of vapor retailers.

Doug Mutter | Photo: VPZ

“Other European nations had recognized the work vaping specialists do in reducing the stress on health services and [have] kept the local stores open,” he said. “We had expected this to be the case and had begun investing in new processes in order to manage our business in such an environment. However, without sufficient clarification and in the interest of keeping our staff and customers safe, we have made the decision to close all 155 stores … for the next three weeks.”

James Jarvis

James Jarvis owns four shops in the U.S. state of Ohio. Jarvis also heads the Ohio Vapor Trade Association (OHVTA), an industry advocacy group. He closed his Vapor Station locations in Clintonville, Columbus, Gahanna and Hilliard on March 23. He said that while the governor of Ohio has shown great empathy to Ohioans regarding the coronavirus, the OHVTA knew it needed to recommend that its members make consumers aware that a stay-at-home order or shutdown would be likely at some point, and all shop owners needed to inform customers.

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Experts: Call for Vape Bans Made Covid-19 Worse

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Anti-vaping activist groups continue to use the coronavirus crisis to advance their goal of restricting — or even completely banning — the use of vapor products. They argue that vapers are at higher risk of harm from COVID-19.

However, the available evidence indicates the opposite: If they had worked to convince more smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, there might be fewer coronavirus-related deaths today, according to a story on insidesources.com.

That’s the view of Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

“It’s absolutely true that if more public health activists had embraced e-cigarettes instead of opposing them and more smokers had been encouraged to switch, there would be less mortality from COVID-19 today,” Siegel told InsideSources. An estimated 2.5 million smokers have given up traditional cigarettes for vaping and other similar technologies.

Siegel has spent much of his career working to reduce smoking and is no friend of Big Tobacco. At the same time, he embraces the “mitigation over prohibition” model for reducing tobacco use. Anti-tobacco prohibitionists — hoping to get every smoker to “just say no” — are fighting an unwinnable battle, Siegel said, according to the story.

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Nicotine Patches Tested on Coronavirus Patients

Credit: Sandhills

French researchers are planning to test nicotine patches on coronavirus patients and frontline workers following a study suggesting smokers are less likely to catch the virus according to The Guardian.

The Paris-based study suggests that something in tobacco helps prevent smokers from contracting the virus, but researchers say they are not encouraging people to take up smoking; cigarette smoke causes damage to the lungs, which can cause individuals who have contracted Covid-19 to suffer more severe symptoms.

Jean-Pierre Changeux, a renowned French neurobiologist, suggested nicotine may stop the virus from reaching cells in the body. Nicotine may also lessen the overreaction of the immune system that has been seen in the most severe Covid-19 cases.

The results coincide with a Chinese study showing that only 12.6 percent of 1,000 infected individuals were smokers whereas the national smoking rate is around 28 percent. In Paris, 8.5 percent of 11,000 Covid-19 patients were smokers while the total number of smokers in France is about 25.4 percent.

“Our cross-sectional study strongly suggests that those who smoke every day are much less likely to develop a symptomatic or severe infection with Sars-CoV-2 compared with the general population,” the report authors wrote. “The effect is significant. It divides the risk by five for ambulatory patients and by four for those admitted to hospital. We rarely see this in medicine.”

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FDA Warns CBD Companies Over Illegal Claims

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to two companies for illegally selling unapproved products containing cannabidiol (CBD) in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This action is part of the FDA’s efforts to pursue companies that illegally market CBD products with claims that they can treat medical conditions, including opioid addiction or as an alternative to opioids.

“The opioid crisis continues to be a serious problem in the United States, and we will continue to crack down on companies that attempt to benefit from selling products with unfounded treatment claims,” said FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy.

“CBD has not been shown to treat opioid addiction. opioid addiction is a real problem in our country, and those who are addicted need to seek out proper treatment from a health care provider. There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, effectiveness and quality of unapproved products containing CBD, and we will continue to work to protect the health and safety of American consumers from products that are being marketed in violation of the law.”

The two warning letters were issued to Biota Biosciences of Washington state and Homero Corp DBA Natures CBD Oil Distribution of New Hampshire.

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Opinion: Four-Month FDA Extension Not Sufficient

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Consumers are staying home and spending less as COVID-19 and social distancing mandates sweep across the globe. The extreme, necessary steps to control the spread of the virus have already taken an economic toll, and there certainly will be a long-term impact on individual businesses and workers. One industry, in particular, will likely fail without swift federal action: e-cigarettes, according to Michelle Minton with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Cigarettes may prove “pandemic-proof.” Since they are often sold at outlets deemed “essential” under the current lockdown, cigarettes continue to be available and big tobacco companies have so far remained financially unscathed. But the same is not true for their lower-risk competitors. Vape shops, which sell vapor products, like e-cigarettes, have not been universally recognized as essential businesses, so they have been forced to close.

To maximize ways to fight the virus, many states have pressed pause on certain rules and regulations (leading many to wonder if they were #NeverNeeded in the first place.) For example, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed an order lifting the state ban on home alcohol delivery. This was a pragmatic move, as Reason’s Guy Bentley aptly put it. Vermont lawmakers understand that people still want to imbibe, and at-home delivery discourages unnecessary booze runs.

Yet that pragmatism hasn’t been extended to e-cigarettes, and Governor Scott’s online e-cigarette sales ban enacted last year remains in place. As a result, some adults now find themselves cut off from the products they rely on to stay smoke-free. Without swift federal action, they may be cut off permanently as vape shops go belly up, and many people will revert to smoking.

The last year has already been difficult for those who sell and enjoy vapor products. Even as the evidence that e-cigarettes are relatively harmless for adults and highly effective for smoking cessation has become clearer, calls to ban or restrict e-cigarettes have only grown louder. Groups that oppose nicotine use, no matter how safe, ramped up attacks, spending millions to promote the idea that e-cigarettes are no different than cigarettes and to foment panic over the non-existent “epidemic” of youth vaping.

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Figr Introduced in British Columbia

Pyxus International’s wholly owned indirect subsidiary Figr Brands has introduced its legal recreational cannabis products into British Columbia, Canada, marking Figr’s first western provincial entry in its planned expansion across the country.

Figr’s cannabis products, including the brand’s two newest strains, are now available for purchase through BC Cannabis.

“Figr’s entrance into British Columbia is an exciting step for Figr as the company continues to expand across Canada,” said Pieter Sikkel, Pyxus president and CEO. “We are proud of Figr’s dedication and commitment to providing Canadians new and continued access to high-quality, fully traceable cannabis products, particularly as Canada navigates the unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 crisis. Cannabis is considered an essential business in British Columbia, and Figr is committed to meeting the demand of consumers while protecting the health and well-being of its employees.”

Within the last nine months, Figr has expanded into three new markets across Canada as well as introduced its initial suite of Figr 2.0 products. Figr’s products are now available in five Canadian provinces through retail locations and online stores, including Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia.

All of Figr’s cannabis products are tracked from seed-to-sale by SENTRI, Pyxus’ proprietary track-and-trace platform.

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Study: States With Legal THC had Fewer EVALI Cases

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States with laws legalizing recreational marijuana had fewer cases of e-cigarette/vaping-related lung injury (EVALI) than states without such policies in 2019, researchers reported.

In states that had legalized recreational marijuana, the EVALI case rate averaged 1.7 per million population (95% CI 0.3-3.1), far lower than states where it’s legal only for medical purposes (8.8 per million, 95% CI 5.1-12.5) or completely illegal (8.1 per million, 95% CI 4.1-12.0), reported Alex Hollingsworth, PhD, of Indiana University in Bloomington, and colleagues, according to an article on medpagetoday.com.

Moreover, the number of cases was significantly lower in states with legal recreational marijuana compared to those where it was not after adjusting for vaping rates (difference 7.2 cases per million, 95% CI -11.8 to -2.6, P=0.003), they wrote in a JAMA Network Open research letter, according to the story.

“It appears states that have legal access to marijuana have lower rates of EVALI cases, which is consistent with the hypothesis that people have demand for marijuana products, and in states where they don’t have access to them in this regulatory fashion, they end up purchasing them elsewhere,” Hollingsworth told MedPage Today.

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Avail Donates More Than 5,000 Masks to Medical Efforts

James Xu

Avail Vapor has donated more than 5,000 masks to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to help medical professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus battle protect themselves.

The idea came to light a few months ago when Avail employees heard about the shortage of masks in China when Covid-19 initially struck. Avail works closely with many Chinese suppliers, and Avail employees wanted to support these suppliers in their time of need.

Employees from around the U.S. gathered masks to donate; as a result, Avail shipped thousands of masks to its overseas partners. Now that the United States is experiencing a shortage in masks, those same Chinese colleagues have returned the generosity and shipped thousands of masks to Avail headquarters for employees and health care workers.

“To be successful, our business has always been highly collaborative with global partners,” said James Xu, CEO and chairman of Avail, and a Chinese American. “To see our employees proactively answer a need for their Chinese counterparts was special. Now we are so grateful to our Chinese friends for helping us defend our citizens in this pandemic.”

In addition, Avail has implemented new programs to help its customers during this unprecedented time. Since March 18, 2020, Avail customers who are burdened with a financial impact from Covid-19, as well as those in the medical community or who are first responders, have been eligible for a one-time purchase of select e-liquids for a penny ($0.01 transactional fee plus applicable taxes). Avail is also offering call-ahead and curbside pickup at all retail locations, as the health, safety and well-being of its staff and customers is paramount.

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RELX Sends Relief Supplies to International Customers

Courtesy: RELX

RELX Technology announced the extension of the RELX “For You With Care” project to support its international partners during the COVID-19 crisis. RELX will initially send 78,200 masks and over 515 gallons of hand sanitizer to its global distributors, partners and store owners.

The supplies will be sent to countries in Asia, Europe, Canada and South America. RELX will continue to follow the developments of COVID-19 globally and will send essential supplies to its partners and employees that are in need.

“RELX is wholly committed to supporting the well-being of our employees, partners, and store owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a global startup, we are doing what we can to help our global community. We hope our modest donation will help them during these trying times,” said RELX founder and CEO Kate Wang.

In lateJanuary, RELX kicked off the RELX For You With Care Project by donating RMB 1million to the Institute of Psychology, China Academy of Science through theShanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation to support a training program designed toprovide mental health support services.

Courtesy: RELX
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