City health officials are requiring stores that sell tobacco products to display graphic anti-smoking signs by March 1, but some experts and other New Yorkers question the effectiveness of the ad campaigns. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
At Montague Street Bagels in Brooklyn Heights, customers don't have to look far for a reminder of the dangers of smoking. There's one sign showing a damaged brain next to the cash register and another sign with blackened lungs on the back wall.
Starting March 1, any city shops that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products that do not display these arresting anti-smoking signs risk fines of up to $2,000.
Yet Joseph Aceto, the owner of Montague Street Bagels, put up a sign next to their picture of damaged lungs that reads, "We are very sorry, but by the order of [New York City Department of Health], we are required to post this sign, or face a $2,000 fine!" The store has received complaints about the DOH's signs, and Aceto said he's even lost a customer over the stomach-turning pictures.
"There's no need for this, not in a food store," said Aceto. "Do the commercials, do what you want, but you can't do this."
One customer, Stuart Metrick, is a smoker who dismisses the signs as a scare tactic.
"It hasn't scared me," said Metrick.
Other customers liked the warnings and argued that they aren't bothered by them, even when they buying a bagel.
"I think that sign is great, because it shows exactly what happens to your lungs if you do something as stupid as smoking," said customer Peter Woll.
"Hopefully it will help some people live longer," said customer Howard Abrams.The DOH has also released a series of anti-smoking television ads, but not everyone is certain the ad blitzes work.
Martin Lindstrom, a marketing expert and author of the book "Buyology," conducted his own research and scanned smokers' brains to see how they responded to anti-smoking warnings.
"What we learned was shocking. We learned that it has the opposite effect," said Lindstrom. "In fact, when people see those health warnings, they are turned on and they want to smoke even more."
DOH officials say there is much research to back up their approach.
Cigarette packs already carry health warnings, but Anne Pearson, a DOH official, said those messages reach customers too late.
"You only get that warning after you've bought the pack. We thought it was really important to have that health message come the moment when you're thinking about buying it," said Pearson.
Whether they love or hate the ads, New Yorkers can expect to see even more of them in the coming weeks, as business owners do their best to avoid the city's fines.