Big tobacco dealt major defeat in court

Big tobacco dealt major defeat in court
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The nation’s second most powerful court dealt a blow to big tobacco Friday, siding with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the battle over regulating menthol cigarettes. 

Tobacco companies challenged a FDA advisory report that says there is evidence to suggest menthol makes cigarettes more addicting. The report will be used to draft new rules for products that contain the ingredient. 

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The FDA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on menthol in July 2013 and requested comments from the public. But because those rules have yet to be issued, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday vacated a lower district court ruling that barred the advisory report from being used. 

“Since the FDA has not yet issued a rule, Lorillard’s prospective injury from that rule remains remote,” Judge Stephen Williams wrote in the court’s decision.

The case centered on a lawsuit that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and Lorillard’s parent company — now wholly owned subsidiaries of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. — brought against the FDA last year.

The tobacco companies argued that the FDA had appointed three members to the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee that had unlawful conflicts of interest. The 12-member panel drafted the report on the safety of menthol cigarettes.

Three of the committee's members, the companies said, had testified in lawsuits against tobacco product manufacturers and had pending engagements to appear as expert witnesses in future suits.

The D.C. circuit, however, ruled that the tobacco companies failed to demonstrate that their injuries were sufficient enough to have the committee report barred.

This story was updated at 12:21 p.m.