A group of tobacco companies is pushing to legally overturn the Los Angeles County ban on flavored vape fluid, alleging the action is unconstitutional and unenforceable. 

On June 1, 2020, the second-largest tobacco company in the U.S. filed a complaint challenging the LA vape ban. R.J. Reynolds, a tobacco company based in North Carolina, is leading the plaintiff coalition, which also includes American Snuff Company, LLC and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc.

Reynolds and company have filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief. This means that rather than ask for monetary compensation, plaintiffs are asking for an official, legally binding clarification on a controversial matter of law. 

In this case, plaintiffs are seeking clarification regarding the legality of the LA vape ban.

Reynolds and company allege the LA flavored vape ban was implemented as part of an “overbroad reaction to legitimate public-health concerns about youth vaping.” 

The complaint then argues the ban has affected “every conceivable flavored tobacco product, including menthol cigarettes and flavored smokeless tobacco products.” 

The plaintiffs — a set of three tobacco companies — believe that this alleged overreach makes the state ban unconstitutional, since the regulation of tobacco products is federally preempted under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

According to the 2009 act, the FDA is the primary agency responsible for monitoring and policing the “manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.” 

The responsibility of regulation is the key argument in Reynolds’ case. which accuses the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors as an entity and as individuals of express and implied preemption for implementing the LA vape ban and inhibiting their business practices.

Reynolds and the other plaintiffs are seeking relief from the United States District Court for the Central District of California in three forms, including:

  • A declaration that the Los Angeles County Tobacco Ordinance’s ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored smokeless tobacco products is invalid and unenforceable under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution
  • A preliminary and permanent instruction informing all defendants that they may not implement or enforce the county’s ban on menthol or flavored smokeless tobacco products.
  • An order to compel the county to pay all attorney fees and associated legal fees for the plaintiffs.

Additionally, the complaint asks for “such other relief as the Court deems appropriate.”