Newport Menthol Cigarettes Law Suite on California menthol tobacco flavor ban: The state’s voters decisively approved allowing a two-year-old law to go into effect on Tuesday. Anti-smoking activists see the company’s move as a way to keep menthol cigarettes on the market for longer.
A day after voters overwhelmingly passed California’s landmark ban on flavored tobacco, R.J. Reynolds, the manufacturer of Newport menthol cigarettes and popular vaping products, filed a federal lawsuit against it.
A significant portion of sales 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 flavored tobacco or vaping products. In order to prevent the law’s implementation, Reynolds is requesting an injunction.
The company’s latest action has been criticized by those who support the ban. A senior attorney in tobacco control programs at the Public Health Law Center, Desmond Jenson, said, “This is a company that sells dangerous products that is trying to go against what the people of the state of California want. It is using the legal system to try to undermine democracy.”
Reynolds, which also makes the well-known vaping device Vuse, did not respond right away to questions about the lawsuit.
In an apparent effort to delay the ban and put the decision to a vote of the public, tobacco companies turned to the ballot initiative. The decision “enabled tobacco companies 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’ ban on flavored tobacco products. Reynolds is attempting to challenge the judgment before the US Supreme Court.
California would become the second state after Massachusetts to outlaw all flavored tobacco, along with the sale of menthol cigarettes. As well as several cities and counties, other states like Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey have banned flavored vaping goods in an effort to stop minors from acquiring the destructive habit. Legal challenges to those 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 realized that if they don’t catch them young, they will go on to lead healthy, tobacco-free lives.” “Unfortunately, menthol is a gateway drug, and teens who try menthol cigarettes are much more likely to start smoking regularly.”
Modoral, a company that produces flavored nicotine lozenges called Velo, and the Neighborhood Market Association, a San Diego trade association that includes vape shops among other businesses, are additional 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 residents from the harmful impacts of tobacco use.” The company said, “We look forward to vigorously defending this important law in court, even though we haven’t been properly served with the complaint yet.”
According to documents from the California secretary of state’s office, spending to promote Proposition 31, the ballot proposal on the state’s law, totaled $29 million in favor of the prohibition, surpassing that of the opponents, which amounted to $2 million. Michael Bloomberg, who used to be the mayor of New York and has always been in favor of anti-smoking laws and other public health efforts, gave most of the money 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 featuring “crush oasis” and another non-menthol cigarettes that “offers a crisp smoking experience.” The advertisements clearly mentioned the California ban, stating, “We realize it’s difficult.” For your convenience, we have created two new non-menthol styles.
In April, the FDA said it would work toward a rule that would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, but it could take years to make such a big step for public health.
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 proposal, which it is currently reviewing. A rule is anticipated to be issued on it next year.
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 choosing flavors like strawberry ice cream and watermelon.
The agency claims it has turned down more than a million petitions and is currently 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 as flavored 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 vaporized during the preceding 30 days earlier this year. The F.D.A. hasn’t made a final decision about Juul Labs yet, which is largely blamed for the vaping problem among young people.
The F.D.A. has approved the sale of Reynolds’ vaping product, Vuse. Teenagers who use e-cigarettes named Vuse as their favorite brand, with Puff Bar coming in second with roughly 30% of the market.
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