Dr. Michael Cummings - opinion - communities should be allowed to regulate signage..

January 14, 2011 - Dr. Michael Cummings, an international leader in tobacco control and chairman of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. provides his opinion that communities should be allowed to regulate signage.

Buffalo and communities across the country are considering the adoption of policies to require the placement of pictorial point-of-sale signage that would inform consumers where to get free help to stop smoking and to educate all those who enter stores about the dangers of tobacco.

These plans were dealt a setback for on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 a federal judge struck down New York City’s health regulation requiring convenience stores and other tobacco retailers to post graphic warning signs on the grave dangers of tobacco use – either where tobacco products are displayed or at the cash register. The signs showed graphic images of a diseased lung, a brain damaged by a stroke, and a decaying tooth and gums, and included information about the dangers of smoking, along with a quitline number. (Judge Rakoff's opinion and order (Case 1:10-cv-04392-JSR)

For background information on the NY City health officials requiring stores that sell tobacco products to display graphic anti-smoking signs..

Judge Rakoff's opinion was based on a federal law, enacted in 1965, prohibited localities from issuing health warnings on cigarette packs and was amended in 1969 to include advertising. The intent was to ensure a common set of health warnings on packs sold and advertising. No one is suggesting that this provision of the federal law be changed. However, extending this prohibition to include signs placed in stores licensed to sell tobacco products is well beyond the scope of the original federal law, and belies common sense. Local communities certainly should have the right to mandate educational signage at the point of sale.

The New York City ruling hopefully will be appealed and common sense will eventually prevail. In the meantime, cigarette makers have vowed to block and delay any and all efforts to rein in their irresponsible marketing practices. Lawyers with the NY City's Law Department said they planned to appeal the decision.

Reference: K. Michael Cummings: Communities should be allowed to regulate signage by K. Michael Cummings, BuffaloNews.com, 1/13/2011.