Tobacco Companies, Retailers Put Profit Before Health in Challenging New York City Rule Requiring Tobacco Health Warning Signs in Stores

Jun 08, 2010, 13:17 ET from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

WASHINGTON, June 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:


The nation's three largest tobacco companies and New York City tobacco retailers have put their profits ahead of health and lives in suing to block the City's rule requiring all businesses that sell tobacco products to post tobacco health warning signs. New York City acted appropriately and within its legal authority in approving the new signage requirement last year as part of its highly successful efforts to prevent children from smoking, better educate the public and encourage smokers to quit.

These warning signs tell consumers the truth about the harm caused by tobacco products. By challenging New York City's rule, the tobacco manufacturers and retailers have shown once again that they are unwilling to accept any responsibility for the consequences of selling deadly and addictive tobacco products. It is also unfortunate that retailers have acted out of a misplaced concern that reducing tobacco sales will hurt them financially when there is clear evidence that consumers will redirect their spending to other products. The lawsuit was filed by Philip Morris USA, Lorillard Tobacco Company and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., as well as associations representing convenience stores and service stations.

Contrary to claims made in the lawsuit, we are confident the courts will find that New York's City's signage requirement is consistent both with federal law and the First Amendment to the Constitution. New York City established the signage requirement as part of its regulation of the sale of tobacco products, which is permitted by federal law that preserves the rights of localities to regulate terms and conditions of tobacco sales. This regulation does not affect either the labeling of tobacco products or the content of tobacco advertising and therefore is not preempted by federal laws in these areas. In addition, the courts have found that requiring the posting of accurate, factual information relevant to a commercial transaction does not violate the First Amendment when rationally related to a government interest, such as protecting health.

New York City's signage requirement is an appropriate component of the city's highly effective efforts to reduce tobacco use, which have included a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law, high tobacco taxes, hard-hitting media campaigns and help for smokers trying to quit. Research has shown that health warnings communicating the adverse health effects of tobacco use are effective at increasing knowledge of health risks, motivating smokers to quit and discouraging non-smokers from starting. Research has also shown that pictorial warnings are more effective and engaging than text-only warnings.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. New York City has set an example for the nation in how to effectively reduce tobacco use and save lives, including with its new signage requirement. What is good for health is bad for the tobacco industry, which is the main reason the tobacco companies are going to such great lengths to fight the New York City regulation.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids