Altria Loses Appeal Over NYC Flavored-Tobacco Ban

"Disappointed," company is exploring next move

RICHMOND, Va. -- Altria Group Inc. has lost a bid to block a 2009 New York City law banning the sale of flavored smokeless tobacco products except in tobacco bars, reported Bloomberg.

The U.S. appeals court in New York on Tuesday upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected arguments by two Altria units, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands, that the city's measure is pre-empted by federal law.

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

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in November 2011 denied their request for an order blocking the law, finding in favor of the city. New York has only eight tobacco bars, none of which sells flavored smokeless tobacco, the appeals court said today.

"We're disappointed with the court's decision and are considering our options," Brian May, a spokesperson for Richmond, Va.-based Altria, the biggest U.S. tobacco company, told the news agency.

The case is U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing Co. v. City of New York, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

Richmond, Va.-based Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. and John Middleton. Altria also owns Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Philip Morris Capital Corp. and has a continuing economic and voting interest in SABMiller.