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Judge Blocks NYC's Graphic Anti-Smoking Displays

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Anti-smoking signs required by the city of New York have been barred by a district court judge because they violate the free speech rights of tobacco vendors, Reuters reported Dec. 30.

Beginning in December 2009, New York City's health department mandated that tobacco vendors post anti-smoking signs at point-of-sale. According to Reuters, the three “gruesome posters” featured decaying teeth, damaged lungs, and a diseased brain.

Philip Morris USA, Lorillard Tobacco Co, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, along with two retail trade groups and two convenience stores, sued the city last June. In response, the city stopped enforcing the mandate to post the signs while the suit was being decided. 

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff ruled that the city did not have the authority to require vendors to post the signs at point-of-sale.

“Even merchants of morbidity are entitled to the full protection of the law, for our sake as well as theirs,” Rakoff wrote.

Nicholas Ciappetta, a lawyer for the city of New York, said in a statement, “We are disappointed that this important health initiative was rejected by the court.”

The city could appeal the decision.

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