Earlier this year, the village of Haverstraw, working with POW’R on Tobacco Control, took the unprecedented step of banning the retail sale of cigarettes to products in their stores, making cigarettes and cigars out of sight of customers. The basis for the decision, which is set to come into force later this year, is that it would reduce the impact of tobacco products to youth.
But now a new wrinkle was added to the situation. New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) and seven tobacco companies in court trying to cancel the upcoming ban and the village is preparing for a potentially costly legal fight. NYACS, Lorillard Tobacco Co, Philip Morris USA Inc, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, the American company Snuff LLC, the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands Inc, and John Middleton Company filed a civil suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In an interview with Rockland County Times, NYACS Representative James Calvin described the law of Haverstraw as “an example of extreme and excessive regulation of tobacco retailers.” He said: “Shops have a fundamental legal right to place the products they sell.” He thinks the law can be the first of its kind in the United States, which is also the fact that POW’R on Tobacco Control argued when it was first announced.
“We believe that it is unconstitutional. We are seeking a court declaration that it is unconstitutional and ordering the village from the constant use of it,” said Calvin. The village is not contacted his group to the law passed, Calvin said. “We learned about it after the law was passed.”
Jay Hood, the village of Haverstraw’s lawyer, said: “According to a lawsuit the village, within a reasonable regulation of the display just shows that they are more interested in selling product than the health of our children. This law was designed to keep the kids from gathering to life, and possibly deadly habit. I did not get complaints like this, but the village is going to handle it in a balanced way that will protect children, but at the same time is not worth the money of taxpayers to protect the village. There are outside of the firm when dealing with us in order to cope with this possible at no cost to the village.”
Michael Kohut, Haverstraw village Mayor, said: “This is a big corporate America will be after the baby, mostly. I would hope Michael Bloomberg would take this instead of the law oversized soda, as tobacco companies are likely to get it will be negated after us, because we are the little guy. We knew it was possible that they will sue, but I do not know what they are. “
He continued: “Ideally, the forces opposed to smoking come to our aid because we are not going to bankrupt a village in the protection of that right. It makes no sense. But if someone from the outside will take the reason we struggle with this, considering that the Council agrees with me. ” The village was proposed during the transition to a resolution POW’R on Tobacco Control, and they are a potential source of financing lawful activities of the village. Describing the next step the village, Kohut said, “We have documents, I’m going to give it to Jay Hood (village attorney). He is in contact with other lawyers in the anti-smoking efforts.”
Calvin said he did not have an estimate of how long it may take the case to play. The prohibition of retail display Haverstraw is due this October. Village Board took action in April, stating that the form of packs of cigarettes on the wall of the store makes the minors to start smoking. By law, retailers could continue to sell tobacco, just not display it, instead giving customers an age check, upon request, printed Control “menu” to order from.
“Retailers have a fundamental right to communicate with their customers about the products they offer to show these products within its own territory,” Calvin said in a statement to the media. “The United States and the new constitution of New York have long been protected by this form of commercial speech.” Defendants in the suit are the Haverstraw village and village institutions and officials who were assigned the responsibility for ensuring that the display of tobacco products, ban as soon as it enters into force in October 2012.