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LAKEVILLE, Minn. – On August 7, 2020, a federal district judge dismissed one of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., American Snuff Co. LLC, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc. v Los Angeles County and Los Angeles County Regulatory Authority. The lawsuit asked the court to explain that Los Angeles County's ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco products is prohibited by federal law and enforcement.

On September 24, 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors became approved a regulation banning the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products. The lawsuit alleged that the Los Angeles County ordinance was excluded by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act– –federal law authorizing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products– –because local and state authorities are prohibited from adopting a tobacco product standard that differs from or supplements the federal tobacco product standards. A product standard is a power given to the FDA by Congress to reduce or eliminate an additive or ingredient in a tobacco product or tobacco product smoke.

The lawsuit also alleged that the ordinance was implicitly excluded from federal law because the ordinance created an obstacle to the goal of Congress to have national manufacturing standards for tobacco products, and both the decision of Congress and the decision of the FDA to limit certain tobacco products Leaving it in the market affects the market.

The federal district judge ruled that Los Angeles County's Flavor Prohibition Ordinance "is not expressly excluded by the (Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act) because (the ordinance) does not govern standards for tobacco products." The court stated further that the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act "allows states and municipalities to ban the sale of tobacco products even if those sales bans are stricter than federal law." In short, the judge concluded that Los Angeles County's ordinance is enforceable because the ordinance itself does not create a product standard, despite being more restrictive than federal law. The court also concluded that federal law did not implicitly anticipate the regulation.

Plaintiffs may appeal the district judge's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. There are also at least five other lawsuits in the country challenging local tobacco-flavored bans, including San Diego County, California and the cities of Philadelphia (two separate lawsuits), Edina, Minnesota, and Palo Alto, California.

Thomas Briant is the executive director of NATO, a tobacco trading association based in Lakeville, Minnesota. You can reach him at

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