The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge from R.J. Reynolds on the flavored tobacco ban California voters approved last month, and the ban will go into effect in less than ten days.
The menthol and flavored tobacco wars have been raging here in San Francisco since the SF Board of Supervisors passed a flavored tobacco ban back in 2017. Fast forward a year later, and the tobacco lobby brought a local ballot measure to shoot down the ban, but that measure was overwhelmingly defeated. Then the California legislature passed their own flavored tobacco ban in 2020, in a complete deja vu, tobacco companies tried to overturn that ban with a ballot measure this past November, and once again, voters upheld the ban by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds immediately sued the state, thinking they’d take a fifth try at overturning the ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. But they just lost that one too, and in surprisingly quick fashion, as CNN reports the Supreme Court refused to hear R.J. Reynolds’s case, effectively upholding the California tobacco ban.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta put out a statement Monday thanking the high court “for denying Big Tobacco’s latest attempt to block California’s commonsense ban on flavored tobacco products,” according to CNN. “The voters of California approved this ban by an overwhelming margin in the November election and now it will finally take effect,” Bonta’s statement said.
R.J. Reynolds had argued that only the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had the authority to regulate tobacco products, not state or local governments, or even voters. But the Supreme Court stuck with a previous ruling that said the FDA had “primary authority” to regulate tobacco, but state government bodies and voters could set their own rules, too.
And so… I guess this is the end of this, finally? A Supreme Court ruling seems pretty definitive, but history tells us that R.J. Reynolds are going to want to bring this thing back to the voters again and again, no matter how many failures, like the dialysis clinic measures. Regardless of that, the California flavored tobacco ban goes into effect on December 21, fewer than ten days from now.
Image: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 28: Packs of menthol cigarettes (BOTTOM) are displayed for sale in a smoke shop on April 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to ban both menthol-flavored cigarettes and flavored cigars in a move hailed by public health experts which could potentially lead to 1.3 million people quitting smoking. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)