City Law Overturned, But Antismoking Posters Remain

By Susannah Griffee
|  Wednesday, Apr 27, 2011  |  Updated 2:49 PM EDT
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City Law Overturned, But Antismoking Posters Remain

Four months have passed since a federal judge struck down the city law that required graphic anti-tobacco posters where cigarettes are sold, but the health department hasn't told any businesses about the change.

In March 2010, the city ordered retailers to display posters of a rotting tooth, a cancerous lung, and a smoke-damaged brain on walls and registers. The city sent out notices warning retailers that not posting the signs would result in fines up to $2,000.

After three tobacco companies and a state retailer sued in protest, a federal judge ruled that the city did not have the authority to pass the law. That ruling was in December, and the city still hasn’t informed any retailers that the law has changed.

Many continue to display the graphic posters, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department confirmed that the city is no longer enforcing the rule.

According to the spokeswoman, the city does not plan to inform retailers of the change in the law because “individualized notice is not required when laws of general applicability like this one are adopted.”

The New York Association of Convenience Stores said many retailers are unaware that the law has changed and still believe that they will be fined if the posters are taken down.

Although various trade organizations, including the NYACS, have informed their members about the change in the law, “there are a lot of stores and bodegas that belong to no association. For them, the only source of information is the health department itself,” spokesman Jim Calvin said.

“It is the city’s responsibility to exert as much energy notifying the regulated community that the law was overturned as it did in notifying the community that the signs needed to be put up,” said Calvin.

The health department said it won't send out any notifications about the law change, although it has removed all language on the website regarding the posters being mandatory and stopped enforcement efforts.

The city is appealing the ruling, and plans to immediately send out new notifications if the law is re-instated.

“if the law is reinstated on appeal, we intend to reach out generally to the retail community, both on our website and through mailings, to let them know that they must again post the signs and to stress the importance of providing information for smokers on how to quit at the point of sale,” according to a health department statement.
    
 

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