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Big Tobacco Sues NYC Over Graphic Anti-Smoking Posters

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Statement by Cheryl Healton, DrPH President and CEO of Legacy in Support of the Significant Step in Tobacco Prevention and Cessation

WASHINGTON --Straight from the longstanding tobacco industry playbook which calls for trying to litigate effective public education programs out of existence, three major tobacco companies – Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard – filed suit last week to block the New York City Board of Health's requirement that retail outlets post hard-hitting anti-tobacco posters where tobacco products are sold. The New York City program, based on successful campaigns in Canada, Australia and other nations, has the real potential to reduce tobacco consumption and save lives. Research indicates that graphic anti-tobacco messages lower intentions to smoke among youth, and promote intentions to quit among adults.  With this requirement, New York City has once again shown itself as a major and innovative public health leader in the United States.

Following overwhelming verdicts of fraud and racketeering in 2006, which were upheld on appeal just last year, Big Tobacco has been trying to rehabilitate its image. However, this lawsuit proves that tobacco companies are fighting as aggressively as ever against reasonable steps to prevent people from becoming addicted to their deadly products and to help smokers quit. Still, these efforts are, by no means, unstoppable. In fact, the industry's concerted, well-funded legal attacks on two of the most successful U.S. anti-tobacco public education programs failed. Legacy successfully fended off Lorillard's five-year effort to kill our proven-successful youth counter-market campaign, truth®, ultimately prevailing in a unanimous Delaware Supreme Court decision. Lorillard and Reynolds also failed in their effort to shutter California's effective tobacco control campaign.

At the same time, the industry's own "anti-tobacco efforts" have shown to be little more than ineffective window-dressing. In particular, their youth campaigns have been widely discredited by peer-reviewed literature with one shown to actually encourage the uptake of smoking by youth.

Tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and effective, hard-hitting anti-tobacco campaigns like the graphic signage requirements in New York City are critical to saving lives. If public health and policy leaders are serious – and we are – about doing everything it takes to put an end to the hundreds of thousands of needless deaths from tobacco in this country every year, we have to implement the toughest warning signs like those being challenged in New York City and then never back down in our work to get them placed in every community from coast to coast. Simply put, public health must always trump tobacco sales. The battle lines have now been drawn in New York, and we commend public health leaders there for fighting the good fight in what will undoubtedly be precedent-setting litigation.  

Legacy is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit

Legacy is equipped with a VideoLink ReadyCam™ television studio system, providing journalists with faster, easier access to the nation's leading tobacco prevention and cessation experts. From this in-house broadcast studio, Legacy can offer immediate access to its experts to comment on breaking news, new research publications, or any news related to youth smoking prevention, adult quit smoking programs, or any issue related to smoking. The studio is connected directly to the Vyvx fiber network and is always available for live or pre-taped interviews.


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