When plaintiffs from such politically-connected states like New York, California, and Illinois decided to join together to file a class action lawsuit against the cigarette giants Lorillard Tobacco Company and the recently acquired R.J. Reynolds, many in the anti-tobacco community thought the case was a slam dunk. After all, these people were suing Big Tobacco for failing to provide clear and distinctive health warnings on the packaging of their e-cigarette products.
With the mountains of negative press being spread across the Internet in recent years by such noteworthy government agencies like the FDA and the CDC, surely the judge would decide in the plaintiffs’ favor, right? Not so fast.
Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Honorable Judge James Selna from California’s Central District Court tossed seven of the eight related counts out of court, effectively dismissing the case altogether but for one small point of contention. Judge Selna could not rule on the final point just yet, demanding further information be provided during the next phase of the lawsuit.
California Judge Selna says state laws does not supersede federal law.
According to court records, the plaintiffs were upset that Lorillard was not following the uber-strict packaging laws of the three individual states. However, both Big Tobacco companies were found to be in full compliance with the labeling requirements set forth by the FDA deeming regulations of May 2015. Therefore, Judge Selna stated that the lawsuit had no basis and must be dismissed. States do not have the authority to create new or stricter rules that supersede federal law.
However, the eighth point of contention regarding Lorillard’s possible non-compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 is still in question. This law relates to the proper labeling of certain toxic chemicals found in any product offered to the public, not just e-cigs and vaping supplies.
Selna does not state that the Lorillard Tobacco Company is guilty or negligent. But he is concerned about recent press releases and research studies from the FDA that mention “detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges.”
However, Judge Selna agrees that statements such as these are rather vague and unclear. Therefore, he is allowing this portion of the case to progress further into the court system. If the plaintiffs cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that toxic chemicals do indeed exist in the vapor of e-cigarettes and vaping products, this last slice of the class action lawsuit may also be tossed out of court entirely.