A Manhattan appeals court ruled that the city cannot require stores in the five boroughs that sell cigarettes to display grotesque images showing the adverse health effects of smoking. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
They are the images the New York City Department of Health hoped would stop some people from buying cigarettes. Images of a pulled tooth, an x-ray of a cancerous lung, an MRI of a damaged brain.
"Those pictures do help to off put it but at the end of the day, if you're a smoker, you're a smoker," said one resident.
Smokers we spoke with say the posters would not have made a difference to them.
"Most people know the age before they start smoking, the risk involved," said one.
In 2009, the city health department required businesses selling tobacco to prominently display the signs at very specific locations.
The three biggest tobacco companies in the country joined several retailers' groups in a lawsuit against the city. They said the city's resolution steps on federal labeling laws and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
Most vendors we spoke with seemed pleased, although some were conflicted.
"They were too strict," said one. "They wanted one large sign and one small sign, 8 by 11-and-a-half or something like that, and certain inches away from the counter. It was way too much."
"I'm a business man but health for people is first," said another.
Philip Morris USA issued a statement that reads, in part, "We are pleased that the Second Circuit reaffirmed that federal law bars state and local governments from regulating the content of cigarette advertising and promotion."
The Health Department's statement reads, in part, “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. Today’s ruling is likely to reduce the number of smokers who quit."
The court did not rule on whether the city's regulation violated any first amendment rights. Nevertheless, the court nullified the regulation.
The city has not said if it will appeal.