Federal Court Upholds New York City’s Law to Prohibit Tobacco Discounts and Further Reduce Youth Smoking

Statement of Susan M. Liss, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 18 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – In a big win for kids and public health, a federal judge today upheld New York City’s new law prohibiting the use of coupons and other discounting schemes that make tobacco products cheaper and more appealing to kids. The new law is designed to prevent tobacco companies from undermining the city’s efforts to keep the price of tobacco products high in order to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially among kids.

Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected arguments by tobacco manufacturers and retailers that the law violates their First Amendment rights and is preempted by federal and state law. Judge Griesa found that the law regulates the price of tobacco products, not speech about tobacco products, and serves the city’s legitimate goal of reducing smoking and other tobacco use, especially among kids.

“The ordinance only regulates an economic transaction – the sale of tobacco products below the listed price. It does not restrict the dissemination of pricing information and thus, it does not violate the First Amendment,” Judge Griesa wrote.

Federal district and appellate courts previously upheld a similar ordinance in Providence, Rhode Island.

These court rulings provide a boost to an important new strategy that state and local governments can use to increase the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products and reduce tobacco use, especially among kids.

Tobacco companies know that kids are the most price-sensitive customers and that discounting the price of tobacco products makes them more affordable and appealing to kids. That is one reason why the industry spends billions of dollars each year on price discounts. By prohibiting the redemption of coupons and other discounting schemes, the New York City ordinance will reduce youth tobacco use by maintaining high prices for tobacco products.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people and costing at least $289 billion in health care bills and economic losses each year. We applaud New York City’s leaders for taking bold action to stop tobacco companies from preying on kids and for standing strong against the industry’s legal attacks.

 

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