TMA's 103rd Annual Meeting & Conference - Speakers
John Anderson has been immersed in the retail cigar world since his purchase of W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist in 1999. Retail sales and customer service are John's passions and during his tenure he has transformed W. Curtis Draper’s smoking experience into a world-class cigar emporium and retail outlet. Together with Matt Krimm, the two are responsible for the vision, direction, and day to day operation of W. Curtis Draper’s two locations in Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD, along with cigar their lounge, CIVIL. Before John was involved in the cigar world, he immersed himself in the coffee industry for 15 years, opening coffee bars throughout the Washington DC area. John is the current Vice President of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers of America, IPCPR. As a board member, he fervently lobbies on Capitol Hill on tax issues and against FDA regulation in the premium cigar industry. John also enjoys extreme skiing, cycling, and barbecuing. He most enjoys spending time with his wife, Lynda, and daughter, Emily, who is now a freshman at The University of South Carolina.
Eduardo Berea has a degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, Mexico. He spent 5 years working in R&D on natural colorants and 10 years of R&D in Beverage and Dairy Industry. Since 1999, he has been working in the Flavour Industry with main responsibilities in Sales, Marketing and Technical Support in International Markets. Eduardo joined Mother Murphy’s Laboratories (MML) in 2006 where he is currently the International Sales Manager and Tobacco Division Director. He also serves as the International Sales Manager of Alternative Ingredients, a subsidiary company of MML fully dedicated to the ENDS industry. Alternative Ingredients is a Member of the Board of CORESTA.
Samuel Graham Boyd
Samuel has been directly engaged in tobacco production, marketing and advancements for his entire adult career and even during his youth having grown up involved in all aspects of tobacco farming. During his lifetime he has observed and participated first-hand in the evolution of our industry from the days that preceded mechanical harvest, bulk tobacco curing and contract delivery in bales to our current systems. He has an intimate understanding and background in the history of this crop.
Mike has more than 17 years experience as a professional tobacconist and cigar enthusiast as well as a noted authority on the intersection of cigar legislation, regulatory advocacy, and cigar science for the past 21 years. He has served as the Federal Regulatory and Legislative Director for Cigar Rights of America since October of 2011.
He was the owner of Bethesda Tobacco for a decade, while also immersing himself in the political issues confronting the cigar industry.
Mike currently serves as a Managing Director of PuroPAC and is a former member of the Board of Directors for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), the IPCPR Legislative Committee, and former chairman of the Maryland Premium Cigar Retailers Political Action Committee. He is the proud recipient of the IPCPR Step Up Legislative Award and the Davidoff Golden Band Industry Service Award (2016).
Brittani Cushman is the Vice President of External Affairs for Turning Point Brands, parent company of National Tobacco Company, VaporBeast and Intrepid Brands, of Louisville, Kentucky. Ms. Cushman is responsible for the management of regulatory and legislative issues at both the federal and state levels. Ms. Cushman provides industry leadership among like-sized manufacturers, advising on regulatory issues as they emerge and placing those issues in the context of both the current science and complex landscape of the vaping and tobacco industries. Ms. Cushman currently serves on the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) Board of Directors, the Vapor Technology Association (VTA) Board of Directors, and the Pipe Tobacco Council Board of Directors. She also participates in the Cigar Association of America, the Coalition of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers of America (CITMA), and the Small Business Cigar Coalition (SBCC).
Ms. Cushman has a B.S.B.A. in Business Management from The University of Tulsa and a J.D. from Washington & Lee University School of Law. She previously served as General Counsel for a tobacco product manufacturer, handling all legal affairs.
Dr. Teodoro Focht Dagi
Teo Forcht Dagi is a neurosurgeon and venture capitalist who currently serves as CEO of Vittamed Neurosciences, a Boston medical device company; Founding Director of two biotechnology companies, Tharos and Ateria; Director of Life Sciences at Anglo Scientific of the Royal Institution of Great Britain; and Managing Partner at the Salutramed Group, a boutique biomedical consulting firm. His interests are focused on biomedical innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship, patient safety and effectiveness in healthcare delivery. He has served as a director of numerous privately held and publicly listed companies and an advisor to government authorities and sovereign wealth funds looking to set up a biomedical industry.
Teo serves on the faculty of the National Venture Capital Association’s Venture Capital Institute and has lectured widely on innovation in health care. He holds professorial appointments in medicine and in management at Queen’s University Belfast and Harvard Medical School. He also taught at Harvard Business School.
Teo has authored or edited eight books and over 150 articles and chapters, and is in the process of completing a forthcoming monograph on innovation on health care for Scientific American Medicine. He received an AB from Columbia College, MD and MPH from Johns Hopkins, MBA from Wharton, the DMedSc from Queen’s University Belfast, and a DHC from the Kaunas Technical Institute in Lithuania. He completed neurosurgical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was a Neuroresearch Foundation Fellow and appointed the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr, Fellow at Harvard University.
Mark Davenport is the Division President of Core-Mark International's Carolina Division. Mark grew up in the industry in his Family's business as a fourth generation owner and manager. In 2012 the Family business was sold to Core-Mark Intl. where he remains as the president of that division. The Carolina division is a full line distribution facility with over 1 billion dollars of annual sales in tobacco and other packaged consumer goods, covering the mid-Atlantic states.
Terry Gallagher, Jr. began his career with Gasamat Oil Corp. of Colorado (GOCC) in 1984 and is a Founder and President of The Cigarette Store Corp. (TCSC) which incorporated in 1991. In 2003 the retail operations of GOCC merged into TCSC and the company now operates 103 Smoker Friendly and Tobacco Depot tobacco, gasoline and liquor stores in the mountain states and Florida. In 2005, Terry also began serving as Managing Partner of Smoker Friendly International (SFI), which owns and operates the Smoker Friendly and SF brand and licenses to over 800 tobacco and convenience stores across the United States. Terry is very active with many professional and philanthropic organizations. In addition to his work on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and as a volunteer Athletic Director and youth coach for Sacred Heart School, he sits on the Board of Directors of Smoker Friendly International (SFI), Tobacco Merchants Association (TMA), International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) and the Colorado Association of Distributors (CAD). He is a member of the Colorado/Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association (CWPMA), Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), IPCPR, Tobacconist Association of America (TAA), TMA and the Scandinavian Tobacco Group Advisory Council. Previously, he served as President of the Denver Oilmen’s Club, Treasurer of the Colorado Promotion Association and the Philip Morris Trade Council, Altadis Advisory Council and served on the Board of Directors for Always Buy Colorado. Terry is a 1983 graduate of the University of Colorado, Leeds School of Business. He is a native of Boulder, Colorado, where he lives with his wife, Windy. They have 3 sons and one grandson.
Dr. Gillman, Senior Vice President at Enthalpy Analytical is a bio-analytical/bio-organic chemist by training. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Wake Forest University with an emphasis on chemical toxicology. He has spent his professional career investigating the constituents and chemistry of tobacco, tobacco smoke and electronic cigarettes. Dr. Gillman has extensive experience in developing LC, LC-MS, and GC-MS based test methods. In addition to instrumental methods, he has also developed and published on biological based test methods for the evaluation of cigarette toxicity. He has been involved in the tobacco industry for the past 18 years and has worked for a large cigarette manufacturer and several tobacco industry contract research organizations (CROs). Enthalpy Analytical is a CRO specializing in the chemical analyses and in vitro toxicology of tobacco, tobacco smoke, and electronic cigarettes.
Joseph G. Gitchell
Joe. Gitchell serves as President at PinneyAssociates, with responsibility for client service, and leads the Marketing Strategy team.
Mr. Gitchell leads efforts supporting regulatory approvals, conducting public policy analysis, developing marketing approaches, devising, refining and defending claims (including extensive claims challenge support) and providing input on strategic market opportunities and directions. He has worked for clients in the US, Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. This work has included extensive collaboration with researchers and policy experts around the world. A co-author on almost 40 articles, Mr. Gitchell has been published in journals including Tobacco Control, Preventive Medicine, Addiction, Archives of Internal Medicine and Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Mr. Gitchell joined PinneyAssociates in 1993 after graduating magna cum laude from Yale University and working on the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign.
Allison Glasser is an Assistant Research Scientist in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the NYU College of Global Public Health. Allison manages various projects related to tobacco regulatory science, including preparing knowledge synthesis papers and analyzing large national datasets. Allison earned an MPH in Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2013. She has extensive experience with promoting evidence-based practices and policies through promoting cancer screening, worksite wellness programs, and harm reduction policy advocacy.
Tim Greene is Category Director of General Merchandise and Tobacco for Boulder based The Cigarette Store Corp, Smoker Friendly’s largest authorized dealer with over 100 stores in the Rocky Mountain region and Florida. Tim has overseen the management of OTP and alternative categories since 2013, including the Glass Werx program since its inception. Before becoming Category Director Tim spent 20 years in operations, most recently as Area Manager.
Hampton “Hoppy “ Henton, a 7th generation farmer raising soybeans, wheat, non gmo corn for local distillery, burley Tobacco, beef cattle and boarding horses on his central Kentucky family run farm. A Purdue University graduate in ag Econ. Hoppy served as FSA director for KY during Clinton administration. He is currently serving as officer and board of directors of council for Burley tobacco growers as well as serving on the FDA TIP-SAC committee.
Matthew R. Holman
Matthew R. Holman, Ph.D. is currently Director of the Office of Science at the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He was appointed to that position in January 2017. The Office of Science at CTP is responsible for identifying, developing, and enhancing the science related to tobacco products, their use, and the resulting morbidity and mortality so that regulatory decisions will have the greatest impact on improving public health. To accomplish this goal, they provide the scientific support for regulations and guidance, review tobacco product applications, evaluate the knowledge basis for regulatory decisions, and carry out research to fill the gaps in scientific knowledge related to tobacco product regulation. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland at College Park in 2000.
Before taking on his current position, Dr. Holman served as Director of the Division of Product Science within CTP’s Office of Science for six years. In this position, he oversaw evaluation of the composition and design of tobacco products. In addition, he was involved in chemical, microbiological, and engineering research on tobacco products, resulting in numerous publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. During this time, Dr. Holman also served as Technical Project Lead (TPL) in reviewing over a thousand SE Reports. As TPL, he was responsible for the overall scientific review of SE Reports by CTP. Before his tenure at CTP, he worked in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) on over-the-counter drug products. He served in a few positions within CDER, with his last position being Deputy Director of the Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development. In this role, he was involved in the publication of approximately 50 rulemakings, guidance documents, and other Federal Register notices.
Wayne Jones has been with Imperial Brands (IMB) for 24 years. He began with IMB Australia, working for 11 years in local and national Sales & Trade Marketing roles. He then spent 9 years in Imperial Group Head Office in Bristol within the Global Trade Marketing team, leading IMB’s global plain packaging strategy as well as leading the development of IMB’s global Salesforce and CRM model. Wayne came to the US in 2014 to work on the acquisition of RAI & LOR brands & people into the IMB family before transferring into IMB’s Fontem Ventures US division in 2015 to become the Senior Vice President of Sales. In the ever growing US e-vapor category, alongside the US leadership team, he is working to return blu to its rightful position as category leader.
Patricia I. Kovacevic
Patricia's in-house counsel and compliance career spans general counsel and division general counsel, senior compliance roles in publicly traded manufacturing/FMCG large multinationals, as well as AmLaw 100 law firms. She has extensive experience in regulatory, corporate and commercial law, legal department management and compliance. She was privileged to lead teams of attorneys, scientists and regulatory consultants across several jurisdictions, which lead to recognition as a unique industry and legislative expert in times of change and in novel, disruptive technologies. She is honored to serve both global harm reduction and consumer needs.
Her specialties are "first time ever" projects and complex multidisciplinary assignments, including novel litigation.
Darshan has extensive experience providing legal, regulatory, and clinical assistance to pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products, especially starting at the point of post-IND assistance through commercialization of the product.
He has helped US based and international companies manage the myriad of regulations from FDA, HHS, OIG, US Attorney's Office, DOJ, etc. as are applicable to the discovery, manufacture, and sale of pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products.
Legal, clinical, teaching, and regulatory backgrounds allow him to assist pharmaceutical companies and their service providers ranging from 1 person consultants to multi-billion dollar, multi-national pharmaceutical companies in US-related legal, regulatory, and compliance activities.
Henry Michael Ligon
Mike Ligon has worked for Universal for 35 years and presently serves as Vice President, Corporate Affairs for Universal Corporation. Mike began his career with the Company in June 1982 in the management training program with a subsidiary in North Carolina. Mike has served many roles for the Company from Leaf Buyer, North American Sales Director, President of Casa Export, President of America’s Harvest to today where he is head of Corporate Affairs focusing on global government regulatory, social and labor matters for the Company.
Mr. Ligon is a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University with a B.S. in Marketing Management. He is very active in the non-profit world, volunteering time and serving on several Boards, including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Communities in Schools of Virginia and LEAD Virginia. He was recently appointed by the Virginia Legislature to the newly-formed Committee on International Trade. As well, Mr. Ligon is a Board Member of TMA, presently serving as Chairman. Mr. Ligon has devoted a significant amount of time to his church, Second Baptist Richmond.
A native of Kenbridge in Southside Virginia, Mike resides in Richmond. He is passionate about family time with his wife Sharon, their two daughters, Michelle and Nicole and their spouses. He enjoys golf where he still competes in several local tournaments annually.
Thomas has 25 years experience in the tobacco industry incl. Product development, Blending, Leaf buying, Corporate Social Responsibility, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs. He has worked with Cigarettes, Fine Cut Tobacco, Smokeless (snus), Cigars and Pipe tobacco.
Bill McGrath has represented tobacco companies on regulatory issues since FDA first sought to regulate tobacco products in 1995. He has counselled clients on ensuring that the company's activities are in compliance with state and federal law, designing and implementing programs to ensure quality, safety, and regulatory compliance, and responding to crisis situations. He has advocated on their behalf before FDA, the Federal Trade Commission, state agencies, and state and federal courts. His clients have included industry members in virtually all tobacco product sectors, from small startups to major tobacco companies. He has also represented clients in all other product sectors under FDA jurisdiction, and represented consumer product and services companies before the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and state and local agencies nationwide.
Jeremy W. McKenna
Jeremy joined Sutliff Tobacco in May of 2015 as the CFO, most recently taking over as President of the company on March 1, 2018. His responsibilities include overseeing Sutliff’s compliance with the FDA Deeming Regulations. Jeremy brings a wealth of manufacturing and manufacturing accounting experience to the company.
In addition to his work at Sutliff Tobacco, Jeremy is a Major in the Army Reserves where he currently serves as the Executive Officer for the 18th Field Hospital, Ft. Story, VA. During Jeremy’s 20 years as a Medical Service Corp Officer he was deployed in 2005-2006 in support of OIF V.
Jose Luis Murillo
Joe Murillo serves as Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Altria Client Services. Joe leads FDA-related regulatory strategy, engagement, communications and advocacy for Altria’s tobacco operating companies. Joe also develops regulatory and research strategies related to Altria’s pursuit of tobacco harm reduction and FDA authorization of modified risk tobacco products.
Before being appointed to his current position, Joe served as President and General Manager of Nu Mark, LLC. In that role, Joe led the company’s development and marketing of innovative tobacco products for adult tobacco consumers.
Mike Ogden is Senior Vice President of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs for RAI Services Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He is responsible for regulatory research, compliance, governance, quality assurance, submissions, and scientific engagement for all Reynolds American tobacco operating companies and tobacco products. He holds B.S. degrees in both Chemistry and Applied Mathematics from Emory & Henry College, and a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Virginia Tech.
Previously, Mike was in charge of various R&D programs for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., including those related to environmental tobacco smoke, measuring smoke uptake in smokers through the use of biomarkers, smoking behavior research, clinical studies, regulatory compliance activities and scientific and regulatory strategy.
Mike has been actively involved in various industry and non-industry organizations over many years, including the Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco (CORESTA), the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum (GTNF).
Mark J. Perry
Dr. Mark J. Perry is the commercial business manager for Battelle’s nicotine and tobacco research and regulatory services. This includes safety risk assessment for batteries and devices, pre-clinical and clinical studies, abuse liability and risk perception studies. Mark has 25 years of experience in a variety of roles for large and small companies. He has 12 granted patents and 1 R&D100 Award.
Graham A. Purdy
Graham was appointed President of Turning Point Brands' New Ventures Division in December 2017. His responsibilities include leading the VaporBeast and Vapor Shark organizations, as well as seeking additional expansion opportunities for Turning Point Brands.
Since joining the company in 2004, Graham has held various leadership positions. Most recently, he was Senior Vice President of Sales, where he was responsible for leading, motivating and setting strategy for the sales organization.
Before joining TPB, Graham spent 7 years at Philip Morris, USA, where he served in senior sales and sales management positions. Graham holds an A.B. from California State University, Chico.
Michiel Reerink is Global Regulatory Strategy Vice President at Japan Tobacco International (JTI), a leading international tobacco company. Since 2010 he heads JTI’s Global Regulatory Strategy department at the Geneva, Switzerland, Headquarters, which coordinates the company’s strategy and responses to global regulatory issues, including plain packaging. He is also a regular speaker on tobacco regulatory topics and has, for example, presented to the European Parliament and the Irish Oireachtas (Parliament). Before joining JTI, he held various roles at Imperial Tobacco, with increasing responsibility for corporate affairs in the Benelux and Germany and the establishment and management of the company’s EU affairs office in Brussels.
Reerink holds a degree in Law from Leiden University in The Netherlands.
Evan Richardson brings over 12 years of experience in Regulatory Affairs and Operations to Synchrogenix. His experience includes stints with pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device companies, where he's specialized in eCTD submissions, project management, system implementation, process development, and organizational training. Evan’s accomplishments in pharmaceutical and biologic product submissions include 4 marketing application approvals among the hundreds of submissions he’s overseen. He currently directs Synchrogenix’s regulatory operations for tobacco and ENDS products. In the past 3 years, his team has prepared and submitted 3 Modified Risk Tobacco Product Applications (MRTPAs), and is engaged in ongoing MRTPA and Pre Market Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) projects.
A former Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York, Barry represents product manufacturers and industry trade associations in litigation, regulatory and legislative matters. He has defended clients in complex product liability matters involving medical, scientific, and other technical issues in courts throughout the country. His experience includes representing clients in cases involving questions of disease causation and addiction.
Barry also represents clients in matters involving federal regulation and federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. He similarly works with clients on a wide variety of regulatory matters before state agencies and departments.
In addition to working with clients to avoid or resolve litigation or regulatory issues, Barry also engages on federal and state legislative matters. In doing so, he meets with legislators and staff, and other public officials on matters of concern to clients.
Jim Solyst is the Vice President of Federal Government Affairs with Swedish Match North America. He has held senior positions in Washington DC based companies and associations, including the National Governors’ Association, American Chemistry Council, and the consulting firm ENVIRON International Corporation. During his over 30 years in Washington he has worked closely with federal agencies, including EPA, FDA and OMB. He has also worked with international organizations, including the UN, WHO and OECD.
Mr. Solyst is a member of the Food Drug Law Institute (FDLI) Tobacco Committee as well as the American Chemical Society Committee on Environmental Improvement. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Chemical Sciences Roundtable and served on the NAS Committee on Promoting Safe and Secure Chemical Management in Developing Countries. He also serves as an External Affiliate to the Johns Hopkins Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute.
Mr. Solyst has written several articles and given numerous presentations on a range of regulatory science and public policy issues.
Noah Steinsapir is the General Counsel & Chief Legal Officer of Kretek International, Inc., wherein he leads Kretek’s legal department and oversees all of the company’s legal affairs. Mr. Steinsapir’s broad focuses include regulatory work, licensing, distribution and manufacturing, intellectual property, M&A, litigation and a variety of other areas of law. Perhaps most important to the industry, over the past four years, Mr. Steinsapir has worked with Kretek’s Executive Team, its inside and outside counsel and its Compliance Department to ensure Kretek operates within the confines of the various and complicated federal, state and local laws which regulate Kretek’s products. Prior to joining Kretek, Mr. Steinsapir worked at several of the country’s most prestigious international law firms, including Mayer Brown, Venable and McDermott Will & Emery. Mr. Steinsapir has practiced law in California for over ten years. Mr. Steinsapir earned his law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles where he graduated in the top five percent of his class and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He is fluent in English and Spanish and enjoys spending time with his wife and young daughter.
Kathleen Stratton began her career at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 1990 in the Institute of Medicine. She has spent most of her time with the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice. She has staffed committees addressing vaccine safety and development, pandemic preparedness, environmental and occupational health, drug safety, and tobacco control. She was given the IOM Cecil Research Award for sustained contributions to vaccine safety and was made a staff Scholar in 2005. After two years at The Pew Charitable Trusts working on FDA reform, she returned to IOM in fall 2013 to direct the Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine and the Committee on the Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Purchase Age for Tobacco. She most recently directed studies on accounting for socioeconomic status in Medicare payment programs and on the health effects of electronic cigarettes. She received a BA in Natural Sciences from The Johns Hopkins University and a PHD in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She conducted post-doctoral research in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Daniel Trope serves as the Director of Federal Government Affairs for the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR). As Director, Daniel is the federal representative for IPCPR’s member retailers in Washington, DC – pursuing legislative and regulatory priorities on behalf of retailers, the association and the premium cigar and pipe tobacco industry. This includes advocating for favorable policy outcomes with Members of Congress and officials at the FDA and other federal agencies. Prior to joining the association, Daniel served as the Director of Government Relations for Royal TenCate (USA) Inc., an engineered textiles and materials manufacturing company headquartered in the Netherlands. Previously, Daniel worked on the legislative staff for Senator Evan Bayh, supporting the Senator’s armed services, national security, and homeland security portfolio.
Daniel originally hails from Overland Park, Kansas and received his bachelor’s degree in political science and near eastern languages and cultures from Indiana University. He and his wife live in Washington, DC with their two dogs. Daniel spends his free time enjoying college basketball, being active outdoors and traveling to new places. Daniel can be reached at Daniel@ipcpr.org.
Jim Vail is the Director of Communications at 22nd Century Group Inc., a plant bio-technology company with an important mission: to reduce the harm caused by smoking. Before joining 22nd Century Group, Jim spent over 14 years in the healthcare industry including 10 years with Johnson & Johnson’s Animas Corporation. Jim was also with CNBC Business News for over a decade as a coordinating producer in Washington, D.C., covering OPEC, the Federal Reserve, the White House, the FDA and the SEC.
Jeff Willett, Ph.D., M.A., is a vice president for the Truth Initiative Schroeder Institute where he leads a team of researchers focused on tobacco regulatory and policy issues.
Willett has developed, directed and evaluated comprehensive state-level tobacco control efforts in New York, Ohio and Kansas. His experience in public health policy, health communications and tobacco dependence treatment provides a strong applied focus to the Schroeder Institute’s emerging research agenda. Willett’s goal is to use research to inform actionable strategies that, ultimately, eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco product use.
Willett served as a contributor to the CDC’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs and serves on several expert panels and advisory committees focused on tobacco prevention. His current research portfolio includes studies examining perceptions regarding nicotine and addiction to tobacco products, youth and young adult use of high-nicotine delivery systems such as JUUL, and the relationship between state-level tobacco policies and tobacco use among lower-SES populations.
James is a serial entrepreneur, leading to him co-founding AVAIL Vapor LLC, where he oversees overall strategy and growth. AVAIL has been one of the fastest growing companies in the country since its launch in 2013. In just four years, James has grown the single retail location in Richmond, VA, to over 100 locations in addition to a large e-commerce business. AVAIL’s headquarters and manufacturing facility are located in Chesterfield County, VA.
Prior to AVAIL, James founded Evergreen Enterprises with his family in 1993. Because of his instrumental role in pioneering Evergreen, it has become one of the largest home and gift wholesalers in the United States and Canada. Along with the success of Evergreen, his leadership with Plow and Hearth has helped to continue the company’s growth since its acquisition in 2010.
Together, James and his family employ over 1,200 full-time employees in U.S. (roughly 900 in Virginia), and over 1,000 employees globally.
Mitch Zeller, J.D., became director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in March 2013. The mission of CTP --established by enactment of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act -- is “to make tobacco-related death and disease part of America’s past, not America’s future, and, by doing so, ensure a healthier life for every American family.”
Zeller, a graduate of Dartmouth College and the American University Washington College of Law, has been working on FDA issues for more than 30 years. He began his career as a public interest attorney in 1982 at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In 1988, Zeller left CSPI to become counsel to the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Government Operations Committee where he conducted oversight of enforcement of federal health and safety laws.
In 1993 Zeller joined the staff of then-FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, M.D. What began as a two-week assignment by Kessler to examine the practices of the tobacco industry led to his serving as associate commissioner and director of FDA’s first Office of Tobacco Programs. Instrumental in crafting’s the agency’s 1996 tobacco regulations, Zeller also represented FDA before Congress, federal and state agencies. Zeller also served as an official U.S. delegate to the World Health Organization (WHO) Working Group for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
In 2000, Zeller became executive vice president of the American Legacy Foundation. His responsibilities there included marketing, communications, strategic partnerships, and, in 2002, creating the foundation's first Office of Policy and Government Relations. That year, Zeller joined Pinney Associates where, as senior vice president, he provided strategic planning and communications advice. He left Pinney Associates in 2013 to begin his second stint at FDA.