Columbus REALLY wants its flavored tobacco ban, it seems

Posted on Jan 31, 2024

So, recently, both chambers of the Ohio legislature voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a law banning Ohio municipalities from creating a patchwork quilt of regulations surrounding tobacco flavorings.

Now, the City of Columbus is suing to block the law approved by veto-proof margins by the legislature from taking effect.

City Attorney Zach Klein is now looking to file a lawsuit in response to the veto override.

“The governor was right to veto legislation undermining local efforts to reduce tobacco use and long-term adverse health effects, especially among young people,” Klein said. “Now that Republican lawmakers have chosen to override the governor’s veto, the City is weighing all options, which certainly includes filing a lawsuit challenging this legislative overreach.”

Klein said his office must defend the Ohio Constitution’s home rule authority, which has existed for more than 110 years. Municipal home rule grants cities the constitutional right to establish laws; as long as a rule or regulation doesn’t interfere with the laws in the Ohio Revised Code, cities have the right to make their own policies.

Section 3 of Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution says:

Municipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.

However, as this brief prepared for the Ohio General Assembly in 2020 underlines, “The exact scope of “all powers of local self-government” has not been defined by the courts.”

There does not appear to be case law that speaks to the issue in contention here, though that brief does note that the list of what has been found by courts to constitute matters of  “local self- government” includes:

  • Internal organization;

  • The control, use, and ownership of certain public property;  Salaries and benefits of municipal officers and employees;

  • Recall of municipal elected officials;

  • Regulation of municipal streets;

  • Procedures for the sale of municipal property;

  • Regulation of city civil service.

The matter of tobacco flavorings seems pretty far removed from this list of items, so we shall see how the courts respond to the action Columbus is planning to pursue here.