Whether a preliminary injunction against Genesee County’s Tobacco 21 Regulation would deprive county residents, particularly young people, of the demonstrable public health benefits of prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to persons under 21 years of age.
In May 2017, Genesee County became the first county in Michigan to pass a regulation prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. On May 12, 2017, the county also became the first U.S. jurisdiction to be sued to have this policy overturned in court. The lawsuit, brought by Michigan-based RPF Oil Company, argues that the ordinance violates state law that describes anyone 18 and older as "an adult of legal age for all purposes whatsoever." On June 19, 2017, Genesee Circuit Judge Judith A. Fullerton granted a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order on the county's Tobacco 21 ordinance.
On June 13, 2017, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, joined by seventeen national, Michigan, and Genesee County public health and medical organizations and entities, including the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, filed an amicus brief supporting the county in this legal challenge. Our brief points out that the Tobacco 21 ordinance will reduce the use of deadly tobacco products in Genesee County, particularly among young people who are particularly vulnerable to nicotine addiction, and that an injunction is not in the public interest.
On December 4, 2019, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision that the county cannot adopt a regulation stricter than state law.