Image source: Healthline
Flavored tobacco: The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request by RJ Reynolds to challenge a California law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, or RJRT, is one of the best-known tobacco companies in the United States.
The company’s cigarette brands account for over a third of the country’s cigarette sales.
RJRT sells products in all segments of the cigarette market and manufactures some of the top-selling products in the US, including:
- Pall Mall
In November, voters voted strongly in favor of Proposition 31.
The law bans the sale of most flavored tobacco products, which includes menthol cigarettes.
Menthol cigarettes are one of the company’s biggest sellers.
RJRT argued that the new California law violates the tobacco law.
The Tobacco Control Act lets the federal Food and Drug Administration regulate the sale of cigarettes.
The court initially approved the law two years ago.
However, tobacco companies were successful in funding a campaign that blocked its implementation and raised the issue in the 2022 statewide vote.
The court upheld the law without explanation or public comment.
As a result, the ban will go into effect on December 21.
In November, Californians went to the polls to vote, with 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 describes flavors as anything other than the regular flavor of tobacco, including:
The law will impose a $250 fine on store and vending machine owners seen violating the requirements.
Lawyers for RJ Reynolds argued the lower court was wrong for ignoring federal law and allowing states to outright ban the sale of flavored tobacco products because they failed to meet product standards.
Additionally, the attorneys noted that in 2009, Congress passed a comprehensive plan 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 briefing, California asked 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 essential, saying:
“Flavored tobacco products are the central cause of unfavorable trends in youth addiction to tobacco.”
Bonta pointed out that the tobacco industry has spent tens of millions of dollars persuading voters to repeal California’s ban without actually doing so.
Furthermore, the attorney claimed that when Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act 13 years ago, it was protecting established state authority over the sale of tobacco products.
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California ban conclusion
After the ban on flavored tobacco products, Attorney Bonta applauded the Supreme Court for overturning Big Tobacco’s 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
The Justice Department announced that cigarette manufacturers would have to add warning signs at points of sale about the hazards of smoking.
The regulations will come into effect on July 1, 2023.
It is the latest in a queue of lawsuits stemming from a 1999 case against cigarette manufacturers.
The order stems from a 1999 lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia by a combined effort of anti-tobacco and public health organizations.
It led to a ruling that cigarette companies misled consumers about the health risks of smoking.
Since 2017, health warnings in newspapers, television, cigarette packs and company websites have increased.
The Justice Department order requires the following brands of cigarettes to use the signs for two years.
- Philip Morris USA Inc
- RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company
- Four cigarette brands under the ITG Brands
Vanita Gupta, the Associate Attorney General, released a statement, saying:
“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.”
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Regulations require retail signs to have an eye-catching design that includes warnings like:
“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 entered into merchandising agreements with cigarette manufacturers.
Supreme Court declines to block California’s ban on flavored cigarettes
Supreme Court upholds California ban on flavored tobacco
Cigarette companies ordered to display health warning signs at retailers