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NEW YORK -- The New York Association of Convenience Stores filed written comments opposing a proposed amendment to the New York City Health Code that would force tobacco retailers to prominently display point-of-sale warning signs about the adverse health effects of tobacco products, some with graphic images as large as three feet square, the association reported.
The measure would require stores to post the pictures of black lungs and other images wherever tobacco products are displayed, and at the cash register or point of purchase. Although the proposal is confined to New York City, it has statewide implications for convenience stores, according to the association.
NYACS cited three main concerns:
-- Timing: After years of struggle, public health advocates finally won congressional approval for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco nationwide, wrote NYACS President James Calvin. "The FDA is about to plant your flag at the summit of Mount Everest, but it seems like suddenly you’re elbowing them out of the way to get there first. We don’t understand the rush to unilaterally enact rules that are bound to be inconsistent in nature and timing with FDA guidelines," he said.
-- Small Business Impact: Calvin said the Board of Health, which held a public hearing on the proposal Thursday, should examine it not only as a public health issue, but a small business issue as well. "It’s not just that the proposed number, size and placement of the signs amount to a seizure of prime retail space used for promotional messages and product displays," he wrote. "If ghoulish pictures of black lungs dominate the view of our counter, they will be seen not only by adult tobacco customers, but by non-smokers entering the store to buy milk, produce, candy, beverages, newspapers, lottery and everything else we sell. And these images are going to turn them off to coming into our store. Consequently, some non-tobacco customers will stop coming in altogether, costing us business."
-- Double Standard: The proposed amendment adds to the regulatory double standard that has long existed between licensed, tax-collecting, law-abiding retail stores and unlicensed, unregulated, untaxed competitors, according to the association. Calvin asked the Board of Health if it is also going to require nearby Native American smoke shops on Long Island, Internet tobacco Web sites, black-market tobacco traders to display the health warning signs, noting half the cigarettes consumed by New Yorkers are purchased from these unlicensed, unregulated, untaxed channels.
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