Prior Lake Tobacco and Vape, Inc. v. City of Prior Lake (2021)

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Status: Open

Case No. 70-CV-21-10726 (Scott County, Minnesota, State Court)

Synopsis

On April 5, 2021, the City of Prior Lake enacted an ordinance that prohibits the sale of flavored electronic delivery devices (e-cigarettes). Prior Lake Tobacco and Vape, Inc., is a vape and tobacco shop that received a license to sell tobacco products in Prior Lake in December of 2020. The business sued the City after it enacted the ordinance, alleging that the Ordinance would destroy its business and that it is unconstitutionally vague, among other things.

Why It Matters for Public Health

This case is yet another challenge to local policies limiting the sale of flavored products. Although this ordinance is not comprehensive in that it does not restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products, it restricts the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in an attempt to curb the epidemic rates of e-cigarette use amongst youth, which is fueled by the use of flavored products. Challenges to these types of ordinances have been filed against local jurisdictions, though the ability of localities to enact such public-health oriented policies has been upheld by every court that has considered them.

Background

The vape shop bringing this challenge applied for a license to sell tobacco products, which was considered at a City Council meeting on November 16, 2020. At the public meeting where the application was presented to the City Council, public commenters advocated for the denial of the license and that the City adopt a moratorium on the sale of flavored vaping products. On December 7, 2020, the City granted the issuance of the license, but simultaneously adopted a moratorium on businesses selling flavored vaping products. On February 16, 2021, the City Council held a public hearing relating to a permanent ban on the sale of flavored vaping products. Based on record evidence and public testimony, the City Council determined that it was appropriate to completely ban the sale of flavored vaping products. The City Ordinance prohibiting the sale of flavored vaping products was adopted on April 5, 2021.

State District Court Proceedings

The vape shop bringing this challenge applied for a license to sell tobacco products, which was considered at a City Council meeting on November 16, 2020. At the public meeting where the application was presented to the City Council, public commenters advocated for the denial of the license and that the City adopt a moratorium on the sale of flavored vaping products. On December 7, 2020, the City granted the issuance of the license, but simultaneously adopted a moratorium on businesses selling flavored vaping products. On February 16, 2021, the City Council held a public hearing relating to a permanent ban on the sale of flavored vaping products. Based on record evidence and public testimony, the City Council determined that it was appropriate to completely ban the sale of flavored vaping products. The City Ordinance prohibiting the sale of flavored vaping products was adopted on April 5, 2021. State District Court Proceedings

The lawsuit was filed on August 12, 2021 in Scott County, Minnesota. The Complaint alleges specifically that:

  1. The ordinance specifically targets Prior Lake Tobacco and Vape, Inc., because it is the only
  2. There is no rational basis for adopting the ordinance because it is not rationally related to a legitimate government goal. The vape shop alleges that the ordinance purports to protect youth, but the vape shop only admits customers that are over the age of 21, suggesting there should be an exemption for 21+ shops;
  3. The ordinance is “void for vagueness” because the definition of “flavored” products in the ordinance relies on subjective consumer standards;
  4. The ordinance singles out and punishes the vape shop as the one in the City and thus constitutes an unlawful “Bill of Attainder;” and
  5. The ordinance constitutes an unlawful regulatory “taking” under the U.S. Constitution by making unlawful the sale of most of the shop’s products;

Litigation Status

This case is ongoing. A motion hearing is scheduled for October 12, 2021.

Case Documents & Information