Three discount cigarette makers sued Colorado in U.S. District Court this week, claiming a ballot measure raising the state’s tobacco taxes gives their larger competitors an unfair advantage by setting a minimum price on all brands, and that the provision was created in a “backroom deal” with the country’s largest cigarette maker.
The little-known provision that sets a minimum price would cause the discount makers to lose ground to Philip Morris USA in their ability to sell their products at much lower cost than name brands such as Marlboro, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday by Liggett Group, Vector Tobacco and XCaliber International, who are asking the judge for a temporary injunction that would prevent the state from enforcing the minimum price mandate should the ballot measure pass. Gov. Jared Polis, Attorney General Phil Weiser and the state general assembly’s legislative council, a nonpartisan research staff, are defendants.
The ballot measure, known as Proposition EE, would increase taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products and add a new tax on vaping supplies, which are not subject to tobacco taxes under current state law. The lawsuit was filed almost a week after Colorado ballots were mailed on Oct. 9 and after more than 300,000 residents have cast their votes.
The plaintiffs say the ballot proposal was written in partnership with Philip Morris USA, the country’s largest cigarette company, who has spent millions in past Colorado elections to defeat tobacco-related ballot measures. Philips Morris didn’t want to spend