The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from the top tobacco companies in the U.S., effectively upholding a California law that bans flavored cigarettes. The 1-page order filed Dec. 12, 2022, denied a requested injunction on behalf of the tobacco companies including the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR).
The injunction was sought after California passed S.B. 793, a law that banned all flavored tobacco products, including menthol tobacco products, from sale in the state. This law is the strictest tobacco ban in the nation, and RJR and its co-plaintiffs argued that such a ban was illegal due to federal preemption.
Their argument was that the federal Tobacco Control Act, which has much milder restrictions, preempts any state law from further restricting the sale of certain tobacco products. Furthermore, the companies argued that if they did not receive an immediate injunction, they would be irreparably harmed by S.B. 793, according to Law360. RJR and its co-plaintiffs filed their appeal with the Supreme Court after their initial injunction request was rejected by the Ninth Circuit court on Nov. 28.
In their Nov. 29 application, the tobacco companies argued that they would “suffer irreparable harm because they will be unable to sell their products in one of the nation's largest markets." Furthermore, the companies argued that banning menthol would restrict approximately one-third of their cigarette market in California. The companies argued that the flavor ban would harm tobacco growers, wholesalers, state and federal tax departments, and the public at large all while fueling an illicit tobacco trade.
The state of California argued that flavored tobacco products are a key factor in youth addiction, noting that those who start smoking flavored tobacco are more likely to become long-term tobacco users. California Attorney General Rob Bonta stated, "Flavored tobacco products have hooked a new generation of young smokers at a time when tobacco is already the number one preventable killer in the United States." AG Bonta called the tobacco companies’ attempts to receive an injunction “Big Tobacco's latest attempt to block California's common-sense ban on flavored tobacco products.”