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California AG Warns Tobacco Companies Their New Menthol-Like Cigarettes Violate State’s Law Banning Flavored Tobacco Sales

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 04, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – California Attorney General Rob Bonta has taken a significant step forward by issuing warning letters to R.J. Reynolds and ITG Brands that their new menthol-like flavored cigarettes violate the state’s new law prohibiting sales of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. With these letters, Attorney General Bonta is sending a clear message that California is serious about enforcing the law and will not tolerate the tobacco industry’s efforts to evade it. We urge Attorney General Bonta to move as quickly as possible to get these products off store shelves.

Reynolds and ITG Brands have sought to evade California’s new law by introducing menthol-like flavored cigarettes that have a cooling flavor similar to menthol, are branded and colorfully packaged just like their menthol predecessors, and are marketed with terms like “smooth” and “fresh” just like menthols. Promotional materials for these products include clear references to flavors such as “tropical oasis,” “new fresh taste” and “a taste that satisfies the senses.” Reynolds has engaged in deceptive and self-serving spin by claiming that these products are “California compliant.” Attorney General Bonta’s letters make clear that these products are not California compliant and in fact violate California law.

California’s law prohibiting flavored tobacco sales was overwhelming approved by legislators in 2020 and upheld by 63% of the state’s voters in 2022. The efforts by Reynolds and other companies to evade the law show that the tobacco industry always puts profits above health and lives. This is an industry that will do everything it can to continue targeting and addicting kids, Black Americans and other groups with flavored products, even violating the law to do so. These actions also show that Reynolds and other tobacco companies cannot be taken seriously when they claim to be moving away from cigarettes.

Policymakers at every level must stand up to the tobacco industry by adopting and fully enforcing measures to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Attorney General Bonta is setting an important example by enforcing the law in California, and we applaud his leadership in doing so.