Big Tobacco is fighting back against a looming flavored tobacco ban in California.
Several major tobacco companies including Camel-maker R.J. Reynolds requested that the Supreme Court implement an emergency order to prevent the ban, which was approved by voters in early November. It’s set to go into effect Dec. 21.
Tobacco companies have tried -- and succeeded -- in delaying the ban in the past.
The California legislature originally passed a ban in 2020, but companies like R.J. Reynolds and Parliament-maker Philip Morris banned together on a $20 million campaign to gather signatures to put the issues to the vote. During the midterms, Californians did vote on Proposition 31, but not in the way the industry had hoped. The ban passed by a wide margin with more than 60 percent of voters choosing to uphold it.
“The message from this vote is unmistakable: It’s time for policymakers at every level to stop the tobacco industry from using flavored, nicotine-loaded products to addict another generation of kids," Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement at the time of the proposition’s passage. "It’s also time to end the industry’s predatory targeting of Black and other communities with menthol cigarettes, which has had a devastating toll on Black lives and is a major contributor to health disparities.”
Advocates like Myers say flavored tobacco products, particularly e-cigarettes, have gotten a generation of teens hooked on nicotine, and that flavored tobacco, particularly menthol, is more addictive and disproportionately targets minority and low-income communities.
The tobacco industry, on the other hand, has argued that only the federal government has the authority to ban tobacco. R.J. Reynolds did not immediately respond to Cheddar News’ request for comment.
If the ban passes, California would be the second state to ban flavored tobacco after Massachusetts. Three other states -- New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island -- ban flavored e-cigarettes, and some 360 localities ban some form of flavored nicotine or tobacco product, according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. California, however, is a substantially bigger market than Massachusetts. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 11 percent of California adults smoked as of 2018.