November 19, 2010 -
Local crusaders against smoking predicted today that Buffalo is on the verge of adopting some of the toughest rules in the nation governing the advertising of tobacco products. Activists met at an East Side community center where speakers accused cigarette-makers of using "predatory" advertising tactics to attract young smokers.
The event was held as the part of the Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society's annual effort to discourage tobacco use. Nine easels were set up at the front of the Delevan-Grider Community Center, each holding an oversized photograph of East Side storefronts that were plastered with cigarette ads.
According to a recent survey that focused on randomly-selected tobacco retailers in Erie and Niagara counties, tobacco ads were found in 93 percent of the stores. Advocates were assisted by local college students in 80 retail outlets. Other studies have found that nearly 90 percent of regular smokers began the habit before they turned 18.
Tobacco marketers are on the prowl for "replacement smokers," said Gretchen Leffler, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society. "In our world, they're known as our children," Leffler said. Youngsters are especially susceptible to the "bright colors and flashy signs" that tobacco marketers use to hawk their products, Leffler added.
Buffalo officials are "on the verge" of passing tough new regulations that will regulate the sale and advertisement of tobacco products, said Anthony Billoni, coordinator of the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition.
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He introduced Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith, the sponsor of a draft proposal that would impose dozens of restrictions on tobacco marketing tactics and retailing activities. Stores would no longer be able to display outdoor ads for tobacco products. Some new businesses would be banned from selling tobacco products, including pharmacies, restaurants, bars and business that primarily serve minors, or businesses that are within 1,000 feet of schools.
Beginning in 2014, no tobacco products could be sold at any drugstores, bars, restaurants, game rooms or on school or college properties.
One key provision would create a new city license for all businesses selling tobacco products. Advocates said this would make it easier for the city to shut down irresponsible retailers.
Smith said the plan is currently being reviewed by city attorneys. He expects a final version to be presented to the Common Council in the near future, and he believes the plan will have enough support to pass.
Smith said the reason the bill has yet to be introduced and approved involves some people's concerns that the city could face enormous legal costs if the tobacco industry mounts a court fight to the regulations. Outside groups would likely assist the city with expenses in the event of a legal challenge, sources said.
A co-founder of 100 Black Men of Greater Buffalo, a community advocacy group, praised the efforts to crack down on cigarette advertising. Jim Anderson said tobacco marketers are engaging in "predatory" practices in many inner city neighborhoods, trying to entice young people into smoking. "They don't care about the old folks who might be stuck on it. They want the new money," he said.
Reference: Lawmakers 'on the verge' of Lawmakers adopting tough rules on tobacco ads by Brian Meyer, BuffaloNews.com, 11/18/2010.
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