Score one for big tobacco and those who hate looking at gross-out signs when they just want to buy a roll of toilet paper. A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that New York City cannot force tobacco retailers to display anti-smoking signs depicting things like decaying teeth, diseased lungs and damaged brains. And it only took a few years since the signs in question first went up!
Big Tobacco first filed suit over the signs in 2010, arguing that what was at stake here was the question of "who has the authority to regulate the content of cigarette warnings." And the judges seemed to agree that authority does not rest with the City of New York, no matter how much former-smoker Michael Bloomberg wants that to be the case:
The opinion affirmed a December 2010 ruling by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan. Rakoff had found that by requiring the posters to be visible at the point of sale of tobacco products, the city had overstepped its mandate because only the federal government has the right to impose such conditions on the promotion of cigarettes.
The appeals court said that the U.S. Labeling Act preempts local laws when it comes to regulating the advertising or promotion of cigarettes. The New York rule would have had the improper effect of regulating "the content of the retailers and manufacturers' promotional efforts."
The City's Department of Health says the "ruling is likely to reduce the number of smokers who quit" as the signs were (and still are) put up "at a place where smokers were most likely to see it." But those who prefer not to look at black lungs while buying a pack of gum should be happy with the news.