NYC's Gruesome Anti-Smoking Ads Blocked by Judge New York City has so many cultural identities, it's impossible to distill to it into an epigram, but it only has a few dominant industries. One biggie: advertising. Times Square is advertising's temple -- dazzling in its ornate, even baroque sophistication, while Madison Avenue is the industry's fabled factory floor. But many of the nitty-gritty ads in the city are the simple placards in high-visibility places: Bus stops, taxi roofs, convenience stores and the like.

These low-budget, high-visibility ads use the same tried-and-true techniques as their upscale brethren to get their messages across: sex, glamor, celebrity and vibrant color. But a new city regulation, set to take effect Jan. 1, was set to insert a seam of dark, nasty imagery into all that glitter: A brain damaged by stroke. A diseased lung. A decayed mouth.

No, I'm not describing a campaign for the newest Stephen King horror tale, but rather images of the damage done to a body by smoking, part of a city-mandated plan designed to scare smokers straight and turn off potential puffers before they start. But fear not, nicotine addicts and innocent bystanders, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff has protected your eyes from those graphic pictures.

Appeals Are Likely

Rakoff isn't sympathetic to the cigarette companies, calling them the "merchants of morbidity." But he found that the New York City health regulation that required the antismoking images to be displayed wherever tobacco products were sold conflicted with a 1965 law that gives the federal government control over tobacco ads. Rakoff didn't rule on the cigarette retailers' and manufacturers' First Amendment claims. The city will appeal, so perhaps, like a horror film monster, the images will rise again.

I hope so. Gruesome images make for effective stop-smoking ads, according to researchers, while badly designed antismoking campaigns perversely seem to increase smoking. I'm OK with cigarettes being legal -- as inconsistent as that is with the rest of the government's antidrug policies -- but persuading smokers to quit and inspiring young people not to start would save many lives, and even more tax dollars. It would also cost cigarette companies, big time, which is perhaps why effective campaigns are so heavily targeted by the tobacco industry.

In any case, New York City consumers can enter 2011 knowing they won't be confronted by the ugly consequences of smoking every time they shop at stores that sell cigarettes. In today's already troubled times, perhaps that's a New Year's gift some weary eyes will appreciate.

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Cigarettes are Legal Products. People make Choices.

December 31 2010 at 8:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The more I think about this .. the more I get pissed off .... Prolonging death is now an option? No one that I know or have read about has made it out of this life alive. Yet we have law makers who want to waste time in prolonging death. You want to save someone try saving the children from child abuse donate to Saint Judes Hospital, Stop the WARS. We throw our children and they are children, into harms way everyday. We throw people out on the streets everyday .. and we are to complain about the smokers???? How insane are we? Spend 10,000 dollars a toilet set and give billions to the banksters ... NO lets throw pictures of Cancerous Lungs on a billboard .... HOW INSANE ARE WE? .... Did we go after any of the Catholic Priest who molested our Children and probley still are? Did we try to erraticate any of the catholic churches for them doing so? I could make a list up larger then any bill board ever made on the evils we have here on earth. No lets target the Smokers. Damn ... now I have to go out and have a smoke ... You law makers make me ill. By the way Abigail .... I Love your comments !!!!!!!

December 31 2010 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh Yea. Just remember, who else is going to pay for the children's health care if not for we the people who smoke. I now pay 8 dollars a pack so our children can have health care. How Nobel it is for me to have fought for our country against the evils of communism the whole while our government gave us free packs of cigarettes. Now that we are addicted to them we now get to save the children. God Bless our Government ... Who else could have planned such a scheme. The baby boomers were screwed from the very beginning. As if those advertisement pictures would be any worse the the kid running down the street in Vietnam with her body burnt by Napalm. This Country and itself needs to get a grip on it's self. I see a brown cloud over LA and Phoenix and we worry about cigaretts and the lady I work with who had never smoked a day in her life comes down with lung cancer. At the age of 14 I worked in a restraunt you could have cut the air with a knife there was so much smoke. Not only am I paying for it then .... they are now making me pay for it NOW!
God Bless our Government and Law Makers ...... I wonder if anyone of them could pour piss out of a Boot with the instructions written on the heel.

December 31 2010 at 2:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Let's be blunt about what the tobacco industry's position is. They want to use the courts to enforce their right to speak lies and profit from misleading children and uneducated people. They also want to use the courts to protect them from anyone else having free speech to tell the truth and to reduce the damages caused by their profit-driven drug dealing.

December 30 2010 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply