On November 8, 2022, California voters approved a measure to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-liquids, in the state, with exceptions for flavored shisha used in hookah, premium cigars, and loose leaf tobacco. R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco industry entities filed suit on November 10, 2022 seeking an injunction and declaratory relief against the measure. On December 12, 2022, the Supreme Court denied the suit.
Why it matters for public health
Flavored tobacco products are exceptionally more popular than unflavored and tobacco-flavored products, whether combusted as with cigarettes or aerosolized as with electronic smoking devices or otherwise consumed. Flavored tobacco products are especially popular among youth and underage consumers of tobacco products, and flavors are widely the attributive factor in youth initiation to tobacco products as well as continued use of the same. One of the single-most impactful tobacco control measures a local or state authority can undertake to curb tobacco product use is the prohibition on flavored tobacco product sales.
California’s state legislature considered and approved a measure in 2020 to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state, with exceptions for flavored shisha, premium cigars, and loose leaf products. R.J. Reynolds et al sued, unsuccessfully, to prevent the law from enactment on the grounds that it was preempted by the Tobacco Control Act. Following this effort, R.J. Reynolds and the tobacco industry supported a referendum proposal to place the state law, known in shorthand as SB 793, on the general ballot for 2022; the referendum petition succeeded and the law – which has not yet come into force – was coded Proposition 31. A “yes” vote for this proposition would mean supporting the law’s enactment, and a “no” vote for this proposition would mean its repeal. On November 8, 2022, California voters approved 62%-38% Proposition 31. R.J. Reynolds et al filed suit on November 10, 2022 in the Southern District of California.
R.J. Reynolds et al’s complaint raises the same arguments that have been previously raised – and dismissed – by state and federal courts; see R.J. Reynolds Co. et al v. Becerra et al (2020). R.J. Reynolds’ writ of injunction was allowed to go directly to the Supreme Court of the United States by agreement that current rulings in the 9th Circuit do not support the tobacco industry.
Litigation Status (CLOSED)
R.J. Reynolds et al filed their complaint on November 10, 2022. On December 12, 2022 the Supreme Court denied R.J. Reynolds’ writ.