Ohio Judge Temporarily Blocks State Preemption Law

An Ohio county judge has granted a temporary restraining order blocking a new state law from taking effect next week that would have nullified flavored vape and tobacco restrictions in Ohio cities. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott also ordered a preliminary injunction hearing for May 17.

A group of 14 Ohio cities filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging the state law that prohibits municipalities from banning flavored vapes and tobacco, or imposing other local standards that exceed state restrictions on tobacco. 

The plaintiffs asked the court for a preliminary restraining order blocking the state law from taking effect while the case is settled, and a permanent injunction. By granting the restraining order, Judge Serrott indicates the lawsuit is likely to succeed on its merits, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The three most-populous cities in the state—Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati—are among the plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed by Columbus city attorney Zach Klein. It was Columbus’ 2022 passage of an ordinance banning the sale of flavored vapes and tobacco that led to the state law. The Columbus flavor ban has been in effect since Jan. 1.

The cities allege that the preemption law violates the right of home rule, which allows municipalities to set their own policy—a right guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution. If the state law had taken effect next week, the Columbus flavored vape ban and similar bans in Toledo and other cities would have been nullified. With the temporary restraining order in place, the flavor restrictions will remain in place for now. 

The law preempting local flavor bans and similar tobacco and vape standards was passed in last year’s budget bill. On Jan. 4, Governor Mike DeWine used his line-item veto power to remove the preemption language from the bill. Within three weeks, both houses of the General Assembly voted to override DeWine’s veto, and the law was set to take effect in 90 days.

Read More: Ohio Judge Temporarily Blocks State Preemption Law