New York Tobacco Law Snuffed Out

New York cigarette smokers who have not made a New Year’s resolution to quit will not have to look at gruesome anti smoking ads when they buy their smokes, thanks to a ruling by a New York City based federal court. The NYC Board of Health had passed a local ordinance that required retailers to post anti-smoking signs. The retailers could choose from one of three styles. The choices featured pictures of a stroke-damaged brain, a decaying tooth and gums or a diseased lung, along with this text: “Quit Smoking Today – For Help, Call 311 Or 1-866-NYQUITS.” The court described the photos as “graphic, even gruesome images.” No argument here. And I didn’t even see them. But it wasn’t the gruesomeness that swayed the court. The ruling reflected a much less horrific concept – federal preemption. That’s a legal doctrine that simply provides that where the federal government regulates an area in a comprehensive manner, state and local governments can’t pile on. And so, in this case, the federal Labeling Act of 1965 preempts the New York ordinance. Which means that New Yorker smokers will not be forced to look at gruesome photos, but will be free to enjoy the scenic beauty that surrounds them: