Tobacco News: No More Ugly Signs

At the end of last year, New York City’s health department created a rule requiring all bodegas, convenience stores, and tobacco shops to post some really gruesome signs of diseased lungs, brains and teeth – to discourage people from buying cigarettes.

Just this past June, the New York State Association of Convenience Stores joined forces with big tobacco’s big three (Philip Morris, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds) to fight the rule  [queue star wars theme], saying that the rule violated the retailers’ First Amendment rights, and breached a law stating that only the federal government can regulate cigarette warnings and advertising.

While awaiting the ruling, the city had agreed that it would postpone enforcement of its rule until this weekend. However, even though the city agreed not to enforce the rule until this weekend, many retail shops had left the ugly signs in place anyway, probably out of fear the $100-$150 fine.

Well the convenience stores can take them down now with confidence. As of yesterday, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of United States District Court in Manhattan found that the rule violated federal law because only the federal government had the authority to regulate cigarette warnings and advertisements.

As reported by the New York Times,

“Judge Rakoff said that health officials had good reason to view smoking as a ‘public health threat,’ citing smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in New York City and the rest of the country. ‘Within New York City, roughly 7,500 people die from smoking annually — more than from AIDS, homicide and suicide combined,’ he wrote.

But Judge Rakoff also cited a federal law enacted in 1965, the Labeling Act, which gave the federal government exclusive authority over cigarette warnings. That law, he wrote, seeks to balance public and commercial interests: the federal government protects the public, but also sets clear and uniform cigarette regulations that protect ‘commerce and the national economy.’”

Judge Rakoff cited to a provision in the Labeling Act that prohibited any state laws from conflicting with the federal government’s policies on cigarette warnings and advertisements. Looks like New York City’s health department overstepped their regulatory boundaries by trying to regulate cigarette warnings, something that is the exclusive responsibility of the Federal government. So, the city’s placard policy is illegal.

The NYC health department isn’t happy and said they’re going to appeal the decision. They also said that tobacco companies who are “trying to prevent these messages from being seen should be ashamed of themselves.”

I think that the NYC health department should be the ones shamed. They’re trying to overstep their boundaries with respect to the First Amendment (compelled speech) infringing on an exclusively Federal responsibility, and waste NYC taxpayer dollars in appealing this decision, all at the expense of small businesses. Epic fail.

Via New York Times

Speaking of small businesses, please support your local B&M!

Don’t where I can fit this in but, here’s a $10 coupon to Famous Smoke Shop – so happy New Year!