N.Y. Graphic Tobacco Signs on Hold

ALBANY -- New York City agreed to temporarily halt enforcement of a board of health resolution that required tobacco retailers and convenience stores to display graphic anti-smoking images, while a legal challenge to the mandate is argued in federal court.

Enacted Sept. 22, 2009, and in effect since March 1, 2010, the resolution requires stores selling tobacco to display color posters depicting diseased lungs and other images at the cash register. The posters are intended to graphically illustrate the consequences of prolonged tobacco use, according to the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS).

However, under a stay of enforcement signed June 24, the city's board of health agreed to not to take any action to enforce the resolution until either Jan.1, 2011, or two weeks after the federal court decides the case, whichever comes first. Retailers who do not post the required signs at this time will not be fined or penalized in any way, according to NYACS.

"We're pleased that our customers won't have to be nauseated by these signs for the time being," James Calvin, president of NYACS, said in a statement.

NYACS is a co-plaintiff in the case, along with retailers Kissena Boulevard Convenience Store and 23-34 94th Street Grocery Corp.; the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops; and tobacco manufacturers Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and Lorillard Tobacco Co.

The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the resolution, on the grounds that it is preempted by federal law, violates the First Amendment and violates the separation of powers doctrine, NYACS stated.

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