Flavored tobacco: On Monday, the Supreme Court denied a request by RJ Reynolds to challenge a California law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company
RJRT (RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company) is the second-largest tobacco company in the United States.
The company’s cigarette brands account for over a third of the country’s cigarette sales.
RJRT offers products in all segments of the cigarette market and manufactures many of the best sellers in the United States, including:
- Pall Mall
In November, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 31.
It bans the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.
Menthol cigarettes are one of the company’s biggest sellers, and RJRT has argued that the new California law conflicts with tobacco control law.
The Tobacco Control Act provides authority for the federal Food and Drug Administration to regulate the sale of cigarettes.
The court first passed the law two years ago.
However, the tobacco companies successfully funded a campaign blocking its implementation and raised the issue in the 2022 statewide vote.
The judges upheld the law without explanation or opinion from the public.
The ban will take effect on December 21.
In November, Californians went to the polls to approve the ballot initiative by a majority of 63.5% to 36.5%.
The law, SB 793, states:
“Proposition 31 (SB 793) prohibits in-person stores and vending machines from selling most flavored tobacco products or tobacco product flavor enhancers.”
“The proposition does not ban shisha (hookah) tobacco sold and used at the store, certain cigars, or loose-leaf tobacco.”
Additionally, the law defines flavors as anything beyond the regular flavor of tobacco., including:
The law imposes a $250 fine on store and vending machine owners who violate the requirements.
Lawyers for RJ Reynolds argued that the lower court wrongly ignored federal law and allowed states to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products outright because they failed to meet tobacco product standards.
Further, the attorneys noted that in 2009, Congress passed a sweeping regime to divide tobacco product regulatory powers between the FDA and state and local governments.
They also said the law gives the FDA primary authority to regulate tobacco products.
During the legal briefs, California urged the judiciary not to interfere in the dispute.
They argued that states had exercised their authority to protect the health of their citizens for more than a century.
California attorney Rob Bonta said the law was needed, saying:
“Flavored tobacco products are the central cause of unfavorable trends in youth addiction to tobacco.”
Bonta also pointed out that the tobacco industry spent tens of millions of dollars persuading voters to repeal California’s ban, which it did not.
Furthermore, the attorney said that when Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act 13 years ago, it protected established state authority over selling tobacco products.
California ban conclusion
Following the ban on flavored tobacco products, attorney Bonta applauded the Supreme Court for rejecting Big Tobacco’s recent attempt to block California’s common sense ban.
“The voters of California approved this ban by an overwhelming margin in the November election, and now it will finally take effect,” said Bonta.
“I look forward to continuing to defend this important law against any further legal challenges.”
Health warning signs
Last week, the Justice Department announced that cigarette manufacturers would be required to post warning signs at retail locations about the health effects of smoking.
The ordinance will come into effect on July 1, 2023.
It is the latest in a long line of court-ordered actions in a 1999 lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers.
The order stems from a 1999 lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia by a coalition of anti-tobacco and public health advocacy groups.
This led to a ruling that cigarette manufacturers were misleading consumers about the health risks of smoking.
Since 2017, similar health warnings have appeared in newspapers, television, cigarette packs, and company websites.
The Justice Department order requires the following brands of cigarettes to show the signs for two years.
- Philip Morris USA Inc
- RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company
- Four cigarette brands under the ITG Brands
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta released a statement, writing:
“Justice Department attorneys have worked diligently for over 20 years to hold accountable the tobacco companies that defrauded consumers about the health risks of smoking.”
The ordinance requires retail signs to have an eye-catching design that includes warnings such as:
“Smoking cigarettes causes numerous diseases, and on average 1,200 American deaths every day.”
“The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive, and that cigarettes have been designed to create and sustain addiction.”
According to the Justice Department, the order applies to more than 200,000 outlets in the United States that have merchandising agreements with cigarette manufacturers.