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Altria Loses Appeal of New York City Flavored-Tobacco Ban

Altria Group Inc. lost a bid to block a 2009 New York City law banning the sale of flavored smokeless tobacco products except in tobacco bars.

The U.S. appeals court in New York today upheld a lower-court ruling which 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,” said Brian May, a spokesman for Richmond, Virginia-based Altria, the biggest U.S. tobacco company.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

The case is U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing Co. v. City of New York, 11-cv-5167, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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