Tobacco companies are suing California’s ban on flavored tobacco

(The Center Square) – A day after California voters overwhelmingly approved the state’s ban on flavored tobacco, a group of tobacco companies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ban.

California voters agreed Proposal 31 this week, a measure upholding a 2020 law signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate Bill 793, that banned the sale of most flavored tobacco products and flavor enhancers. Tobacco companies were quick to file a referendum after the bill was signed, and that referendum appeared alongside six other initiatives in this year’s vote.

The inventor of Newport’s menthol cigarettes, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, and other tobacco companies are seeking an injunction to prevent the flavored tobacco ban from going into effect. According to the lawsuit, the ban will take effect five days after the Secretary of State confirms the results of the vote, which must be done by December 16.

Tobacco companies claim the law was anticipated by the Tobacco Control Act, which banned flavored cigarettes except for menthol. They also allege that the law violates the Commerce Clause, saying that California law “seeks to regulate manufacturers who are not located within state lines.”

“California has no legitimate interest in enforcing its anticipatory and unconstitutional right,” the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, reads.

Tobacco companies had previously sued to challenge SB 793, but the court dismissed the case, saying the outcome of the bill depended on voters approving Proposition 31 or not.

Proponents of Proposition 31 argued that maintaining California’s ban on flavored tobacco was necessary to prevent children and adolescents from becoming dependent on nicotine and tobacco products. A 2020 study by the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health found that 79% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 and 89% of adults ages 18 to 24 reported using a tobacco product, because it was available in the flavors they preferred.

Tobacco companies, including some listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, invested millions of dollars in opposing Proposition 31. Opponents argued that the ban would ultimately regulate the sale of flavored tobacco to adults instead of children, since it was restricted to minors is already illegal to buy tobacco products.

said Attorney General Rob Bonta The New York Times in a statement that he “looks forward to vigorously defending this important law in court.” Bonta is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit alongside San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan.

“Big Tobacco has consistently sought to quash government efforts to protect our youngest residents from the harmful effects of tobacco use,” Bonta said in a statement to the Times.