RJ Reynolds Sues California Over Flavored Tobacco Ban

A day after voters decisively passed California’s groundbreaking ban on flavoured tobacco, RJ Reynolds, the manufacturer of Newport menthol cigarettes and popular vaping goods, filed a federal lawsuit contesting it.

A significant portion of revenues for Reynolds and other tobacco businesses would be lost due to the state law, which was passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom two years ago and forbids the sale of any flavoured tobacco or vaping goods.

In order to prevent the law’s implementation, Reynolds is requesting an injunction. Ban backers criticised the company’s most recently action.

Desmond Jenson, a senior attorney in tobacco control programmes at the Public Health Law Center, said: “This is a business that sells lethal goods attempting hard to overturn the will of the people of the state of California – exploiting the legal system in an attempt to undermine democracy.

Requests for comment on the case were not immediately answered by Reynolds, which also produces the well-known vaping gadget Vuse.

In an apparent effort to postpone the ban and put the decision to a vote of the public, tobacco firms turned to the ballot initiative.

The decision “enabled tobacco firms to make $1.1 billion in income while 37,000 youngsters used candy-flavored tobacco products,” Action on Smoking and Health executive director Laurent Huber said in a statement.

Reynolds’ lawsuit revives an industry argument that local and state governments do not have the right to challenge federal law under the Tobacco Control Act,

which gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco. This argument was made after the companies were defeated on the ballot.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the reasoning in a decision against Reynolds in March after the corporation tried to overturn the county of Los Angeles’ prohibition on flavoured tobacco products.

Reynolds is attempting to challenge the judgement before the US Supreme Court. California would become the second state after Massachusetts to outlaw all flavoured tobacco, along with the sale of menthol cigarettes.

As well as several towns and counties, other states including Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey have banned flavoured vaping goods in an effort to stop minors from acquiring the destructive habit. Legal challenges to the prohibitions have so far been unsuccessful.

According to Erika Sward, vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, “Flavors attract youngsters, and the tobacco industry has long realised that if they don’t catch them young, they will go on to lead healthy, smoke-free lives.”

Unfortunately, menthol is a gateway cigarette, and children who try them are considerably more likely to continue smoking regularly.

Modoral, a company that produces flavoured nicotine lozenges called Velo, and the Neighborhood Market Association, a San Diego trade association that includes vape shops among other businesses, are other plaintiffs in the action.

Rob Bonta, the attorney general of California, stated in a statement that “Big Tobacco has repeatedly tried to steamroll state attempts to safeguard our youngest people from the harmful impacts of tobacco use.

“We look forward to robustly defending this vital statute in court, even though we have not yet been properly served with the complaint,” the company stated.

According to documents from the California secretary of state’s office, spending this year to support Proposition 31, the ballot proposal on the state’s legislation, exceeded $29 million in favour of the ban, surpassing that of the opposition, which came to $2 million in 2022.

Michael Bloomberg, a former mayor of New York who has long supported anti-smoking policies and other public health efforts, provided the majority of the cash for the ban.

An estimation made by Bonnie Herzog, a research director at Goldman Sachs, places Reynolds’ share of menthol cigarette sales in the US at close to 60%.

Tuesday saw the release of new Camel brand advertisements from Reynolds, including “crush oasis” and another non-menthol cigarette kind that “offers a crisp smoking experience.”

The advertisements clearly mentioned the California prohibition, stating: “We realise it’s difficult. For your convenience, we have created two new non-menthol styles.

The F.D.A. declared in April that it will work toward a rule banning the sale of menthol cigarettes, although it may take years to implement such a substantial public health step.

A government poll found that over 85% of Black smokers preferred menthol cigarettes, compared to 29% of White smokers. Menthol prohibitions would have a considerable impact on this group of smokers.

Tens of thousands of comments were made on the agency’s plan, which it is currently reviewing. A rule is anticipated to be issued on it next year.

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According to a recent poll of teenagers conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tastes were a major factor in getting young people to start vaping, with 85% of those who did so preferring flavours like strawberry ice cream and watermelon.

The government claims it has turned down more than a million petitions and is now considering a large number of applications submitted by businesses to keep their items on the market.

The F.D.A. has been working hard to keep illegal goods off the market, such flavoured vapes with synthetic nicotine.
Annual government polls show that teen vaping peaked in 2019 and has since started to fall. About 16 percent of high school pupils said they had vaped during the preceding 30 days earlier this year.

The F.D.A. has not yet made a final determination about Juul Labs, which was largely credited with causing the youth vaping issue.

The F.D.A. has approved the sale of Reynolds’ vaping product, Vuse. Teenagers who use e-cigarettes picked Vuse as their favourite brand, with Puff Bar coming in second with roughly 30% of the market.

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