June 4, 2010 - New York City anti-smoking signs depicting a decaying tooth, diseased lungs and a damaged brain violate cigarette vendors' free speech and should be removed, tobacco companies and retailers said in a lawsuit. Philip Morris USA, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., plus two major retail trade groups and two convenience stores, alleged in the Manhattan federal court lawsuit that the signs violate the sellers' rights by imposing the signs on them.
"The government may not force private parties to carry messages beyond purely uncontroversial factual statements that are designed to prevent consumer deception," said the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, June 2nd and made available to reporters on Thursday, June 3rd. The three different signs, developed by the city's Health Department and required as of last December, graphically depict the harmful effects smoking can have on the body. They bear messages such as "smoking causes tooth decay" and list the number of a city helpline for assistance on how to quit.
June 24, 2009 - The New York City (NYC) Health Department is proposing city tobacco retailers post signs with graphic images such as cancer-ravaged throats and black lungs in an effort to discourage smoking, health officials. (New York City - proposed pictorial warning signs to show the sickness and suffering caused by tobacco use..)
June 25, 2009 - New Yorkers are being called upon to give their opinion in a public hearing on July 30 on a new Health Code amendment that would put graphic anti-smoking warnings wherever tobacco products are sold. The warnings would include images depicting the adverse health effects of smoking and information on how to quit. (New York City - to ask public opinion - smoking graphic warning signs..)
September 22, 2009 - The New York City (NYC) Department of Health unanimously approved a measure Tuesday, September 22nd that will require all retailers selling tobacco to post health warning signs in stores. (New York City - all retailers selling tobacco will be required to post warning signs..)
March 1, 2010 - NY City health officials are requiring stores that sell tobacco products to display graphic anti-smoking signs by March 1, 2010 but some experts and other New Yorkers question the effectiveness of the ad campaigns. Starting March 1, any city shops that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products that do not display these arresting anti-smoking signs risk fines of up to $2,000. (New York City - VIDEO: starting March 1, 2010 stores, anti-smoking signs..)
"The signs ... do not describe the risks of smoking in purely factual terms. Instead, the signs force tobacco manufacturers and retailers to communicate vivid images at the point of sale," the suit said.
"We are confident that the health code provisions being challenged will withstand legal scrutiny," said New York City Law Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Thomas. By trying to suppress this educational campaign, the tobacco industry is signaling its desire to keep kids in the dark," a statement by the city's Health Department said.
The lawsuit also alleged federal anti-smoking rules prevent local governments from interfering with cigarette advertising.
Reference: Tobacco companies contest NY anti-smoking signs, reporting by Basil Katz; editing by Anthony Boadle, Reuters, 6/3/2010.
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