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US Supreme Court Leaves California’s Flavored Tobacco Ban in Place

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With the decision not to hear the lawsuit from R.J. Reynolds, California's ban on menthol cigarettes remains in place. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request from a tobacco giant to settle a dispute between the company and the state of California over tobacco regulation.

Justices on Jan. 8 declined to hear the case from R.J. Reynolds about California’s bans on menthol cigarettes and other tobacco flavorings.

Anti-tobacco groups celebrated the high court’s decision.

“This decision reaffirms (our) dedication in safeguarding youth, low-income individuals, LGBTQ+ people, and communities of color from the detrimental tactics employed by Big Tobacco,” the Central Valley Out Against Big Tobacco Coalition said in a news release.

Voters Outlawed Flavored Tobacco in 2022

After California’s Senate Bill 743 banned flavored tobacco, R.J. Reynolds among other companies successfully lobbied to get a voter referendum on the ballot, challenging the decision.

However, in November 2022, more than 63% of voters stood behind the bill, codifying the menthol ban.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta — named in the lawsuit by R.J. Reynolds — called the decision “excellent news” on X, formerly Twitter.

“Californians overwhelmingly approved our state’s flavored tobacco ban and my office has been proud to defend it in court. We look forward to continuing to fight to prevent addiction and protect the health of our people,” Bonta said.

Fresno Judges to Weigh Legality of R.J. Reynolds’ New Cigarette

After the Food & Drug Administration took on tobacco regulation in the 1990s, tobacco companies began arguing against local control of cigarettes, according to filings with the Supreme Court. Courts have never sided with legal complaints of that nature, though, filings said.

Opponents of flavored tobacco said the products target kids and Black Americans. After voters approved the referendum, the ban began on Jan. 1, 2023. In response, tobacco companies released products they claimed mimicked menthol’s flavoring while still abiding by the legal language of the ban.

Bonta sent a letter to R.J. Reynolds telling them to stop selling the products in California. However, R.J. Reynolds partnered with a Fresno car wash company to sue Bonta. The case is going through Fresno County Superior Court.

 

Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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