News from the New York City Council: Speaker Quinn, Members and Health Advocates Lauds City Law Banning Sale of Flavored Tobacco


(January 12, 2010)

City Hall, NY-Leaders of health and clean air groups joined Council Speaker Christine Quinn today to reiterate their support for the recent enactment of a city law to bar the sale of certain flavored tobacco products in New York. The health advocates actions came after the city was sued by two tobacco companies – the U.S. Smoking Tobacco Manufacturing Co. and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands inc. – asking a federal judge to overturn the ban signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on October 28, 2009.


Local Law 69, with Health Committee Chairperson Joel Rivera and Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo as leading sponsors, bans the sale of flavored products, including, but not limited to, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice.  The Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are empowered to police the sale of these products, with penalties ranging from fines for a first offense up to suspension of a business’ license to sell tobacco products for a multiple violations.


“Once again big tobacco companies are fighting against sensible health legislation that will protect New Yorkers, especially our city’s kids,” said Speaker Quinn. “This lawsuit is just another way for these tobacco companies to place profit by ahead of the health of children and young adults. Our legislation will protect New Yorkers from harmful products disguised with attractive wrapping or sweet flavors and prevent the beginning of an addictive and lethal habit. I want to thank my Council colleagues and health advocates for their support and we feel confident that our legislation will be upheld in court.”


“We’ve seen the detrimental side effects of what smoking can do to a person and dressing it up with fun flavors doesn’t make a habit like smoking any less dangerous,” said Majority Leader and Health Committee Chair Joel Rivera. “It is no secret that for years, tobacco companies have been targeting our young people with this kind of product. This is a common sense policy and is a major step forward in protecting kids and deterring them from starting a lethal habit. I want to thank the Speaker, my colleagues, advocates, our young adults for their support. 


“We must create a safe haven for our young people,” said Councilwoman Inez E. Dickens. “Flavored tobacco has paved a path for ‘the Nutcracker’ candy flavored drink containing alcohol.  Our youth are our future and I believe that as elected officials, we have a mandate to do all that we can to protect our youth." 


““The Council’s flavored and smokeless tobacco legislation was passed to help deter children and young adults from becoming regular smokers,” said Council Member Letitia James.  “Slowing the rate of addiction among smokers will prevent disease, reduce healthcare costs and save many lives.  I stand arm and arm with my colleagues in denouncing the filing of this lawsuit that challenges our recently passed critical ban.”


The health advocates applauded city officials for maintaining New York’s national leadership in efforts to combat smoking and tobacco use.


“While New York City has been a leader in combating smoking, there are still thousands of kids who become smokers every year,” said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at the American Lung Association in New York. “The immediate implementation of New York City’s ban on flavored tobacco products is critical to our efforts to keep kids from smoking and save lives.”


“The American Heart Association maintains its position that flavored tobacco products are an easy way for Big Tobacco to victimize future addicts,” stated Suzanne Steinbaum, M.D., spokesperson for the American Heart Association and Director, Women and Heart Disease, Heart & Vascular Institute, Lenox Hill Hospital.  “As long as these products remain on the shelves, children in our city will see the brightly colored packaging and cartoon graphics that are often used by these flavored products.  This makes it very difficult for young people to differentiate between their favorite candy and these grape, bubble gum or pina colada-flavored tobacco products.  This dangerous marketing must be stopped!”


"Flavored tobacco products are one of Big Tobacco's most deceptive tactics to hook a new generation of smokers to their deadly products," said Michele Bonan, Regional Director of Advocacy, American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey. "The American Cancer Society stands by the New York City Council. The ban is a bold step in putting an end to the slick marketing the tobacco industry uses to lure kids into a life-long lethal habit. We know that this law will help save lives by encouraging kids and hopefully adults to be tobacco free."


The city law takes major steps to close off Big Tobacco’s ability to find and exploit loopholes through adding flavoring agents to products such as small cigars and chewing tobacco. The measure is not only good public health policy, it is popular – 77 percent of respondents, in a recent poll of 1,000 New Yorkers conducted for the Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, supported a ban when asked if the flavored products “attractive to youth” should be banned.


“We applaud the New York City Council, Speaker Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg for taking tough action to protect our children from the predatory marketing practices of Big Tobacco,” commented, Joanne Koldare, Director, NYC Coalition For A Smoke Free City.  “Producing tobacco products with candy, liquor and fruit-flavors camouflages the risks and confuses kids.  If the tobacco industry cannot act responsibly, we are grateful that New York City leadership can.”