City wins lawsuit against tobacco companies, bans cig coupons

The city won a legal victory yesterday in its fight against smoking after a federal judge ruled against tobacco companies suing to prevent a ban on cigarette coupons.

The National Association of Tobacco Outlets and cigarette companies argued that the law violated their First Amendment rights. But U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa upheld the statute, signed in November by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“The ordinance only regulates an economic transaction — the sale of tobacco products below the listed price,” Griesa wrote. “It does not restrict the dissemination of pricing information.”

The city’s law department praised the judge’s decision, calling it a win for public health. “The restrictions will reduce the consumption of these highly addictive and deadly products,” said Nicholas Ciappetta, the law department’s senior counsel.

Thomas Briant, the executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, meanwhile, said cigarette companies had been unfairly singled out.

“For decades, manufacturers have issued coupons or offered special pricing on a variety of products, and we believe that retailers who sell legal tobacco products should have the right to accept coupons on these products,” he said in a statement.

In addition to banning tobacco-related coupons, the law mandates a minimum price for cigarettes at $10.50 a pack. Bloomberg, a staunch opponent of the tobacco industry, also signed a law that raised the smoking age to 21 and banned electronic cigarettes from bars, restaurants and city beaches