A court of appeals rejected New York City’s 2009 resolution by the Board of Health to require retailers to display anti-smoking signs by cigarette displays.
The court ruled that only the federal government had the ability to try to develop campaigns to deter people from smoking and that states did not have the power to interfere with or enhance the impact of the images or words that the federal government chooses to display.
There were three signs proposed by the board, all with graphic images. One held an X-ray image of a lung with cancer, saying, “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer.” Another had an image of a decaying tooth accompanied by the words “Smoking Causes Tooth Decay.” The third showed a brain with damaged tissue, with the words “Smoking Cause Stroke.”
Health officials say that the decision will lower the number of smokers who attempt to quit. They also added that tobacco-related illnesses kill more people in New York City than AIDS, murder, or suicide combined.
But for smoking rights advocates, this is a victory. The suit was brought by two cigarette retailers, two trade associations, and three of the largest cigarette manufacturers, including Phillip Morris.
The city has already banned smoking in indoor working facilities, raised cigarette taxes, provided smoking cessation programs and developed educational campaigns.
The second circuit court of appeals said that New York City could continue with anti-smoking campaigns, but could not require retailers to display signs.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires that cigarette packs display graphic warning images and words advising purchasers on the health dangers of smoking. There are ten images, ranging from lungs afflicted with lung cancer to corpses. That law, passed in 2009, has come under fire itself, but most recently, in March, a federal appeals court denied that the images violated cigarette manufacturers’ constitutional right to freedom of speech. Other countries have adopted the similar policies.