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USSTC Fights New York City Flavored Tobacco Ban

NEW YORK -- Altria's wholly owned subsidiary, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing Co. LLC (USSTMC), maker of moist smokeless tobacco products including Copenhagen, Skoal, Red Seal and Husky, along with U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands Inc. (USSTB), filed a lawsuit in a federal district court against New York City, seeking to overturn a flavored tobacco ban ordinance scheduled to take effect Feb. 25, 2010, according to the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO).

In the fall of 2009, the New York City Council adopted and Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an ordinance banning the sale of all tobacco products -- excluding cigarettes -- that contain a characterizing flavor other than menthol, mint or wintergreen.

In the lawsuit, USSTMC and USSTB seek the court to find the ban invalid and unenforceable, and claims The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) preempts local laws that establish tobacco product standards that are different from, or in addition to, those set forth in that federal law.

"The FSPTCA does not permit a municipality to impose such sweeping regulation of tobacco products. The City has established a tobacco product standard that is different from, and in addition to, the federal tobacco product standard for constituents or additives that impart characterizing flavors," the suit reads.

The suit also claims New York City violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by enacting a law that restricts or burdens commerce between states, since the clause gives only Congress the power to make laws regulating commerce between the states, according to NATO. The plaintiffs seek a judicial order that the ordinance is void, as the ban directly impacts manufacturers and distributors located in other states that sell flavored tobacco products to retailers in New York City.

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