Tobacco is back in the news again after tobacco companies paid to avoid the courts, as the US Federal Government announced plans to bring its own tobacco laws into effect next month.
The US government is expected to ban the sale of tobacco products to children under the age of 18 and impose penalties of up to $200,000 for anyone found selling tobacco to minors.
The Federal Government said it will be using its powers under the Tobacco Control Act to take steps to address the “health risks of electronic cigarettes and related products” and to “prevent and prevent tobacco related harm”.
The US Attorney General said the tobacco ban is the most significant action taken by the Federal Government to date to tackle the growing problem of tobacco related deaths.
“We have taken aggressive steps to take control of this epidemic and are committed to making the health and safety of the American people and our communities a top priority,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said.
“The tobacco industry’s actions to avoid litigation, including paying lawyers to protect their interests, are consistent with the best interests of American families and our country,” he said.
The tobacco companies have been fighting a battle in the US District Court for the District of California over the legalisation of the sale and marketing of electronic cigarette products, arguing the US laws would harm their bottom line.
The companies say the ban would lead to an increase in sales of cigarettes and tobacco and would also result in a loss of jobs.
But the Federal District Court has ruled against the tobacco companies, which are currently fighting in court to block the ban.
“A new law will force the tobacco industry to engage in a costly and futile public relations campaign,” the tobacco company, Philip Morris International, said in a statement.
The court ruled the ban will hurt the tobacco industries bottom line and impose a huge financial burden on the tobacco market.
It also rejected the tobacco and electronic cigarette industries arguments that the ban was needed to protect children from tobacco related disease.
In its ruling, the court said: “The harms resulting from the proposed ban are sufficiently substantial to warrant the imposition of a substantial burden on tobacco manufacturers to protect against a potential health threat.”
In a statement, Philip Morcys US-based lawyer said the companies had been “seeking an exemption from the ban”.
“The Court is mindful of the substantial harm that the proposed legislation will inflict on the American consumer and the economy and is not willing to impose an exemption that will unnecessarily burden the tobacco manufacturers,” he added.
It is unclear how long the tobacco firms have been arguing against the ban in the court.
“They haven’t gone into the details, but it’s going to be about four months before the tobacco products are going to go on sale in the country,” one industry analyst said.
Mr Bharara’s office said it would be prepared to file an appeal to the US Supreme Court.
The ban will apply to any electronic cigarette, including those sold through online platforms, but not those sold at brick and mortar stores.
The Tobacco Control Board will decide whether to make a determination as to whether the ban is “necessary and proportionate” by a vote of its members in September.
The Government’s position The ban was announced on Thursday as part of a new proposal to tackle tobacco related mortality.
It has been criticised by some groups, including the Australian Medical Association, the National Cancer Institute and the Medical Association of New Zealand.
The FDA has said the ban on sales of electronic nicotine delivery devices (ENDS) is likely to save lives, but the industry has argued the ban has no evidence of harm.
“Electronic nicotine delivery device use is associated with less tobacco use and less harmful tobacco-related health outcomes, including smoking cessation,” the FDA said in an announcement.
“In the past two years, the FDA has identified over 2,000 adverse events that have been reported to the FDA.
This includes a total of over 1,000 cases of e-cigarette addiction and over 200 deaths.”
The FDA said the use of ENDS and other products is likely lower in some areas, including in high school and college campuses.
However, the agency said the bans could increase tobacco use in certain communities and lead to tobacco related illness and deaths.
The decision to bring the ban into effect comes after a landmark US Supreme court decision last year to give tobacco companies a chance to fight the ban, which they had fought unsuccessfully for more than a decade.
The high court decision also paved the way for the Federal Cigarette Industry Alliance to take legal action against the government, with a Federal Circuit Court judge writing that the decision was “very clear” that the government could ban the products if it wanted.
The group has already applied for an exemption to the ban and will continue to push for the legislation to be repealed, but will likely have to wait for the court to make the final decision.
The government has also indicated it will allow the industry to market its products, including e-cigarettes, to schools and other places