Jul. 25 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Tobacco companies have abandoned their legal challenge to New York City’s innovative new law prohibiting tobacco discounting schemes, as they chose not to appeal a federal court ruling that upheld the law. The deadline for the tobacco companies to appeal was July 18.
It is a big win for kids and public health that New York City can move forward with implementing this law, which prohibits coupons and other discounting schemes that make tobacco products cheaper and more appealing to kids. The 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.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas P. Griesa upheld the city’s new law a month ago. Judge 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.
Federal district and appellate courts previously upheld a similar ordinance in Providence, Rhode Island. These rulings show that tobacco discount bans stand on firm legal ground. They supply strong legal support for an important new tool that state and local governments should use to increase the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products and reduce tobacco use, especially among kids.
Tobacco companies know 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. By increasing the price of tobacco products through higher tobacco taxes and discount bans, elected officials can significantly reduce tobacco’s terrible toll.