Altria Group, Lorillard Inc., Reynolds American Inc., two retailers and two retail trade associations have filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court challenging the New York City Board of Health’s ordinance requiring graphic anti-tobacco health warning signs to be posted in retail stores that sell tobacco products.
The lawsuit asserts that the federal government warning label regulations pre-empt this action by New York City’s Board of Health and that the ordinance infringes on the right to communicate with consumers about lawful tobacco products.
“The government may not force private parties to carry messages beyond purely uncontroversial factual statements that are designed to prevent consumer deception,” said the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday.
The three different signs, developed by the city’s Health Department and required as of last December, graphically depict the harmful effects smoking can have on the body and include messages such as “smoking causes tooth decay” and list helpline numbers for assistance on how to quit, Reuters reported.
New York cigarette sellers face a $2,000 fine if they fail to display at least one warning sign at the cash register or next to the cigarettes. No other U.S. city has adopted similar measures, city Health Department officials told Reuters.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a smoke-free New York one of his major priorities, having banned smoking in bars and restaurants.