December 30, 2010 - A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a New York City law that would have forced all bodegas (small grocery stores in an urban area) and convenience stores to post gruesome images of diseased lungs, brains and teeth in the shops to discourage people from buying cigarettes. In a 13-page ruling, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of United States District Court in Manhattan wrote that while the law was well intentioned, it violated federal law since only the federal government had the authority to regulate cigarette warnings and advertisements.
Background: “Even merchants of morbidity are entitled to the full protection of the law,” Judge Rakoff wrote, “for our sake as well as theirs.”
August 13, 2010 - The hearing was set for October 14 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The city agreed to stop enforcing its law until January 1 or 14 days after a judge's order, whichever comes first. The court case: US District Court Southern District of New York - NY Health Department signs in retail stores - 6/2/2010.
Massachusetts was poised to become the first state in the nation to force retailers to prominently display graphic warnings about the perils of smoking right where cigarettes are sold — at tobacco sales racks and next to cash registers. The proposal by the state Department of Public Health need the approval of the state Public Health Council. But now members of the council are waiting to see what happens with a pending New York lawsuit. "We are not going to take any action until after the initial hearing in New York City," says Jennifer Manley of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. (Massachusetts - may force retailers to display graphic warning signs of perils of tobacco..)
New York City - more on the anti-smoking signs lawsuit against Department of Health..
June 4, 2010 - 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. (Big tobacco companies file lawsuit contesting NY City's anti-smoking 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..)
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..)
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..)
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..)
The decision puts an end — at least for now— to the city’s plan to have the placards displayed beside cash registers in more than 11,000 establishments across the city. While awaiting Judge Rakoff’s ruling, the city had agreed that it would postpone enforcement of its rule until this weekend.
Lawyers with the city’s Law Department said they planned to appeal the decision. In a statement, the health department said that the city “strongly disagrees” with the ruling and that tobacco companies “trying to prevent these messages from being seen should be ashamed of themselves.”
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.” In his ruling, Judge Rakoff pointed out that the Labeling Act also contained a provision forbidding any state laws from conflicting with the federal government’s policies on cigarette warnings and advertisements. That, he concluded, makes the city’s placard policy illegal.
Reference: Judge Rejects City Law on Antismoking Posters by ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times, 12/29/2010.
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