Tobacco Companies Sue to Block Bill Banning Sale of Flavored Tobacco

Recently, tobacco company giants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA sued the State of California in an attempt to block SB 793 from going into effect. SB 793 by Senator Jerry Hill would prohibit the sales of specified flavored tobacco products statewide. The measure was passed by the Legislature and signed into law almost immediately by Governor Gavin Newsom in late August.

Recall, the same tobacco company entities also filed a referendum to overturn the measure last month. Filers must collect over 623,000 signatures from California voters by November 30, 2020, to qualify the referendum for a future ballot, possibly in 2022. If enough signatures are collected, the measure would be placed on hold until voters weigh in.

In the recent lawsuit, tobacco company plaintiffs contend that the state’s ban on the sale of most flavored tobacco products is “an overbroad reaction to legitimate public health concerns about youth use of tobacco products,” claiming California’s action is “the most draconian ban on tobacco products of any state in the nation.” The plaintiffs further argue that the ban is unconstitutional on the grounds that federal law supersedes state law and that tobacco manufacturing is subject to “intensive regulation” by the federal government. Plaintiffs also suggest the ban unlawfully attempts to regulate out-of-state manufacturers, violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and conclude that California “has no legitimate interest in enforcing its unconstitutional law.”

Tobacco company plaintiffs filed, in addition to their complaint, a request for a preliminary injunction to stop the law from taking effect on its scheduled date of January 1, 2021, while the courts tend to the case.

Additional information on the status of SB 793 is expected over the coming weeks and months and will continue to be communicated with CHEAC Members as it becomes available.