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Going Smokeless

Supreme Court upholds California's ban on flavored tobacco products

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a request from one of the nation's leading tobacco companies to block a California ban on flavored cigarettes. 

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the country's second-largest maker of cigarettes and tobacco products, had asked the court to strike down Proposition 31. The proposition was a measure on SB-793, a California state law that prohibits the sale of flavored cigarettes, including menthol cigarettes, and vaporizers. Voters overwhelmingly upheld the proposal during the midterms, with The Associated Press reporting the measure was carried 63.4 percent to 36.6 percent. 

R.J. Reynolds had asked the court to intervene regarding the proposition based on the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which prohibits states from blocking the sale of tobacco products. "They can raise the minimum purchase age, restrict sales to particular times and locations, and enforce licensing regimes," attorneys for R.J. Reynolds wrote in its application to the court. "But one thing they cannot do is completely prohibit the sale of those products for failing to meet the state's or locality's preferred tobacco product standards."

However, the Supreme Court decried this argument and upheld the ban. No explanation for the decision was given, and CNN reported that there were no dissents. 

SB-793 was initially passed two years ago, but it never ended up taking effect after a number of legal challenges by tobacco companies tied up the legislative proceedings. 

Any retailers in California caught selling the banned products could be subject to a fine of up to $250.