The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request by tobacco companies to block California from enforcing a ban on flavored tobacco products that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in November.
RJ Reynolds and other tobacco companies sought the intervention of the high court to prevent the ban from taking effect before December 21.
There were no additional comments from the judges or notable discrepancies.
The ban was first passed by the state legislature two years ago, but never went into effect after tobacco companies gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot. But nearly two-thirds of voterseverything from cotton candy vape juice to menthol cigarettes.
Supporters of the ban say the law was necessary to stem a staggering rise in teen smoking.
RJ Reynolds filed a federal lawsuit the day after the Nov. 8 vote, but lower courts refused to hold the law while the lawsuit progresses.
Menthol cigarettes account for about a third of the market in California, the companies said as they urged the Supreme Court to prevent them from losing so much business in the nation’s largest state. They argued that the authority to ban flavored products rests with the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA in April proposed a rulein cigarettes and non-tobacco flavors in cigars.
California responded that federal law conveniently allows state and local governments to decide what tobacco products will be sold in their jurisdictions. And the state noted that the companies only went to the Supreme Court after spending “tens of millions of dollars” in a losing case at the polls.
California will be the second state in the nation, after Massachusetts, to enact a ban banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Several California cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, have already enacted their own bans, and several states have banned flavored vaping products. No legal challenge to those bans has prevailed so far, but the companies have an appeal pending in the high court in their fight with Los Angeles.
It is already illegal for retailers to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. But proponents of the ban said flavored cigarettes and vape cartridges were still too easy for teens to obtain. The ban does not make it a crime to possess such products, but retailers who sell them could be fined up to $250.
In addition to menthol and other flavored cigarettes, the ban also prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco for vape pens, tank-based systems, and chewing tobacco, with exceptions for hookahs, some cigars, and loose leaf tobacco.