U.S. Supreme Court Denies Tobacco… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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U.S. Supreme Court Denies Tobacco Industry’s Request for Injunction Halting California’s Flavored Tobacco Law, Allowing Lifesaving Measure to Take Effect

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 12, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today denied a request by R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco interests for an emergency injunction to block implementation of California’s law ending the sale of most flavored tobacco products, which was overwhelming approved by state lawmakers in 2020 and upheld in November by 63% of the state’s voters. This decision is a major victory for kids and public health and will allow this lifesaving law to take effect later this month. The decision is a rejection of desperate efforts by Reynolds and other companies to further delay the law so they can continue to target kids, Black Americans and other communities with flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. 

Reynolds has argued that the California law is preempted by federal law (the 2009 Tobacco Control Act) despite the explicit language of the Tobacco Control Act preserving the authority of states and localities to regulate, and even prohibit, the sale of tobacco products. While today’s decision is about Reynolds’ request for an injunction and does not decide the merits of the company’s preemption argument, there is no basis for the Supreme Court to review the lower court rulings upholding the law. Reynolds has raised the preemption issue repeatedly, but every federal court that has considered this issue has held that the Tobacco Control Act does not preempt state and local laws restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products – including the First, Second and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.

The California law was passed in response to the clear evidence that flavored products have fueled the youth e-cigarette epidemic and the tobacco industry’s continued, predatory targeting of Black and other communities, especially kids, with flavored products like menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. By using the referendum to delay the law for two years, tobacco companies made about $800 million in revenue from menthol cigarette sales alone during this time period. Their lawsuit was aimed at further protecting their profits no matter the cost.

The tobacco companies’ battle against the California law shows once again that they haven’t changed and are lying when they claim to care about anything other than their bottom line. Reynolds and other companies will stop at nothing, including overriding the will of the voters, in order to continue targeting children and vulnerable communities with flavored products. Policymakers at every level must stand up to the tobacco industry’s bullying and take action to protect kids and save lives. 

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and 22 partner organizations filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court urging rejection of Reynolds’ request for an emergency injunction.