US circuit court strikes down NYC effort to place graphic images on cigarette labels

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that New York City cannot force stores selling tobacco products to post graphic images of rotting teeth and lungs, dealing a major setback to Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to reduce smoking.

The three judge panel said that while the city’s effort is “understandable,” the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act gives the Federal government sole control over cigarette label warnings.

Philip Morris USA, one of the plaintiffs in the case, applauded the decision. In a statement, the company said, “This suit has always been about who has the authority to regulate the content of cigarette warnings…That is a power reserved to the Federal government without interference or additional efforts by state and local authorities.”

The AP reports New York City “cannot try to scare smokers by requiring grotesque images of diseased lungs and decaying teeth at stores that sell cigarettes because the Federal government gets to decide how to warn people about the dangers of smoking tobacco.”

Richmond, Virginia-based cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA, which had sued to block the poster requirement, said “it was pleased with the court’s ruling.”

The NYC Health Department reacted to the ruling in a statement, saying, “The city’s warning signs depicted the grisly toll of smoking and provided helpful information about how to quit at a place where smokers were most likely to see it…Despite huge strides in combating smoking in New York City, tobacco remains the city’s number one killer and we remain committed to providing smokers with life-saving information and resources to overcome their addiction.”

However, the appeals court made it clear that “it did not believe every state or local regulation affecting promotion of cigarettes interferes with Federal law.”

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