New regs could put a choke hold on smokers
A smoker at a bar. AP file photo.
The sun is closer than ever to setting on the Marlboro Man.
President Barack Obama Monday signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of the tobacco industry in decades, giving the federal government the power to reduce nicotine in cigarettes, sharply curtail advertising and eliminate the labels light and low tar. The law also bans flavored cigarettes - though not menthol - and requires graphic warning labels covering half of a cigarette pack.
It's a historic piece of legislation, said Anne Pearson, an attorney for the New York City health department. New Yorkers are certainly going to notice the changes.She said 20 people in New York die every day from smoking.
The city has been at the vanguard of the movement to restrict tobacco, banning smoking in bars and restaurants earlier this decade. Public health advocates and Mayor Michael Bloomberg - among the most zealous anti-smoking public officials in the country - lauded the new rules.
After years of inaction and subservience to powerful lobbyists, our leaders in Washington sent a clear message: the tobacco industry no longer sets national health policy, Bloomberg said.
Philip Morris, the tobacco giant behind the popular Marlboro brand, supports the law, which it called tough but reasonable in a statement on its Web site. The Bush administration had opposed the tougher restrictions, which begin this fall and will be phased in through 2011.
Smokers interviewed yesterday seemed mostly resigned to the restrictions.
I agree with it, I'm looking to quit myself, said Michael Minero, Jr., 25, of Manhattan.
Richard Minkoff, 25, of Brooklyn, noted that Obama was - and, some suggest, still is - a smoker.
Although the law is unlikely to prompt Minkoff to quit, he said he approves of the graphic labels and the fuller disclosure requirements for the ingredients in cigarettes.
The rationale is good, said Minkoff. Why not be informed about a hazardous product? Put it front and center.
Critics say the bill will do little to reduce smoking and will simply increase federal power at the expense of individual choice.
The whole thing is a sham, said Audrey Silk, who founded Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment in New York in 2000. It won't achieve anything they say it will. It's feel-good legislation.
Anastasia Economides contributed to this story