By Andrew Sheeler
Big Tobacco is taking the State of California to court in a bid to block SB 793 from going into effect.
In a complaint filed late last week, plaintiffs including tobacco giants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA argue that the state’s newly passed ban on the sale of most flavored tobacco products was “an overbroad reaction to legitimate public-health concerns about youth use of tobacco products” and “the most draconian ban on tobacco products of any state in the nation.”
The plaintiffs argue further that the ban is unconstitutional on several grounds.
First, they argue that federal law supersedes state law, and the manufacture of tobacco “is subject to intensive regulation by the federal government.”
“In striking a balance between federal authority and state authority over the regulation of tobacco products, Congress expressly denied states the ability to promulgate any requirement relating to tobacco product standards that are different from or in addition to federal standards,” the complaint reads.
The plaintiffs also argue that the law unlawfully attempts to regulate manufacturers who are outside of the state borders, which they say is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
Finally, they argue that California “has no legitimate interest in enforcing its unconstitutional law.”
In addition to the complaint, the plaintiffs have also filed a request for a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect on Jan. 1 while the courts sort it out.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids condemned the move, calling it a “last-ditch maneuver.”
“For decades, Big Tobacco has relied on hooking kids with candy-flavored tobacco products that taste better than cigarettes, forcing them into lifelong addiction. But the Legislature and the governor saw through these dirty tricks, and we’re confident California’s courts will help stop the cloud of smoke Big Tobacco uses to hide the truth,” the campaign’s advocacy director, Lindsey Freitas, said in a statement.
The group argues that if the tobacco industry delays SB 793 from going into effect, the industry would generate $1.1 billion in revenue from the sale of menthol cigarettes over a 22-month period.
“Approximately 17,000 lives will be lost, 37,000 more high school kids will start using e-cigarettes, and the state will rack up another $800 million in health care costs related to tobacco use,” according to the campaign.