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.
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.