Cigar Association of America, et al v. City of Philadelphia et al. (2020)

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Status: Open

Docket No. 2:20-cv-03220 (E.D. Pa. Jul 01, 2020)
Appeal: Docket No. 20-03519 (3d Cir. Dec 15, 2020)


Cigar trade associations challenge Philadelphia flavored tobacco sales restriction on state-level preemption and Constitutional grounds.


On December 18, 2019, the City of Philadelphia enacted a flavored tobacco product sales restriction covering all flavored tobacco products, including flavored cigars and rolling tobacco. The ordinance contains an exemption for businesses that prohibit entry to minors, do not serve food or beverages; and derive 90% of or more of its revenue from the sale of tobacco products.

District Court Proceedings

On June 18, 2020, the Cigar Association of America, ITG Cigars, Swedish Match North America, and Swisher International filed a complaint in Pennsylvania state court against the City of Philadelphia over its flavored tobacco products sales ordinance. The complaint contains several counts, including:

  1. The ordinance is expressly preempted by two separate state laws that regulate tobacco sales to minors and contain express preemption provisions;
  2. The ordinance violates the industry’s due process rights because its definition of “characterizing flavor” is ambiguous and does not provide guidance to sellers as to which products are prohibited and which are permitted;
  3. The ordinance violates the industry’s due process rights because it is not rationally related to the goal of addressing youth sales; and 
  4. The ordinance violates the Pennsylvania Constitution because it is vague and ambiguous.

In addition to the request that the court issue declaratory relief on the preemption and constitutionality claims, the Industry Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance pending judicial review.

On July 1, 2020, the City of Philadelphia filed a notice of removal to federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction occurred on October 7, 2020.

On November 13, 2020, the district court granted the motion for the preliminary injunction, finding in part that the Industry Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their state preemption claims. On December 15, 2020, the City of Philadelphia has appealed the district court’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Litigation Status

The case is ongoing.

Case Documents & Information