The Supreme Courtroom upholds California’s ban on flavored tobacco

In this photo, packs of menthol cigarettes lie on a table in New York City.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a tobacco industry motion to block a California ban on flavored tobacco products.

The ban, or Proposition 31, was overwhelmingly passed by voters in November and will ban the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

The 911 call was made by RJ Reynolds, a unit of British-American Tobaccoand other big tobacco companies trying to halt or delay the measure, which is due to go into effect next week.

The law was first passed two years ago, but tobacco companies successfully funded a campaign to block its implementation and brought the issue to this year’s statewide vote.

However, the judges upheld the ban without explanation or public opposition.

RJ Reynolds, who sells Newport menthol cigarettes, argued the ban contradicted the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, a federal law that prohibits states from blocking the sale of tobacco products.

“They can raise the minimum purchase age, limit sales to certain times and places, and enforce licensing rules,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in their cease-and-desist petition. “But one thing they can’t do is ban the sale of these products outright because they don’t meet the state or region’s preferred tobacco product standards.”

Plaintiffs also argued that the law would incur “significant financial losses” to the tobacco industry. Menthol cigarettes account for about a third of the market in California, they told the court.

RJ Reynolds did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Some California cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, have already enacted such bans on flavored tobacco products and menthol cigarettes.

Once the statewide law goes into effect, California will become the second state in the nation, after Massachusetts, to enact a statewide ban.

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