Los Angeles County Sued Over “Draconian” Vape Ban

Tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County calling their ban against flavored tobacco products “draconian” and an “overbroad reaction to legitimate public-health concerns about youth vaping.”

The complaint said the county could have targeted youth usage or increased age restriction enforcement, but instead, the ordinance bans sales of many vapor and non-vapor products to adult consumers. The companies claim the law is preempted by federal laws and is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, American Snuff Company, LLC, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc, they are represented by Jones Day. The suit was filed against the County of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, and individual members of the board.

The Los Angeles County Tobacco Ordinance was approved on September 24, 2019, as a result of the increase in youth vaping. The ordinance makes it illegal to sell any flavored tobacco product or flavored component of a tobacco product or nicotine delivery device like an e-cigarette. This includes menthol cigarettes and other menthol-flavored products produced by tobacco companies.

The companies agreed that L.A. county is “rightly concerned” with the rise in youth vaping during the last two years and said they are committed to keeping the products away from youth. “Reynolds has rigorous standards to ensure its marketing is accurate and responsibly directed to adult tobacco consumers aged twenty-one and over. Reynolds also has strict compliance policies for retailers who sell its products to prevent youth from purchasing tobacco products and supports programs that train retailers to comply with age restrictions,” the complaint claimed.

The companies claimed federal law does not allow the county to ban flavored tobacco products, and the ordinance is an obstacle to the purpose of the federal Tobacco Control Act which seeks to establish uniform standards.

“Congress expressly denied states and local units of government the ability to promulgate tobacco product standards that are different from or in addition to federal standards. The County’s ban on flavored tobacco products, however, is a product standard because it regulates the ingredients and additives in those products,” the complaint said.

The tobacco companies asked for the ordinance to be determined invalid and unenforceable and enjoin the county from implementing the ban on menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products.