Bloomberg News

Altria Suit to Block New York Flavored Tobacco Ban Dismissed

November 16, 2011

(Updates with excerpt from ruling in fourth paragraph.)

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Altria Group Inc.’s lawsuit challenging a 2009 New York City law banning the sale of flavored smokeless tobacco products except in tobacco bars was dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan today rejected arguments by two Altria units, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands, that the law is preempted by the federal law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco.

The Altria units, which make and distribute the Copenhagen and Skoal brands of smokeless tobacco, had argued that the New York ordinance imposed manufacturing standards on their products, in conflict with federal law.

“The ordinance does not prevent plaintiffs from making a flavored smokeless tobacco, or from performing that fabrication in whatever way they wish -- as long as they do so consistently with federal standards,” McMahon wrote in today’s ruling. “It simply prohibits plaintiffs from selling those products in New York City anyplace except a tobacco bar.”

McMahon in March 2010 denied the companies’ request for an order blocking the law, saying it was “highly unlikely” the tobacco companies’ claim would succeed.

“We’re disappointed with the ruling and we plan to appeal,” Steve Callahan, a spokesman for Richmond, Virginia- based Altria, said today. Altria is the biggest U.S. tobacco company.

The case is U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing Co. v. City of New York, 09-cv-10511, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

--Editors: Charles Carter, Michael Hytha

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in Manhattan federal court at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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