For the second time, a federal judge has determined that local laws to prevent the tobacco industry from offering discounts on cigarettes are not a violation of First Amendment rights. New York City’s new law that banned the redemption of coupons, multipack discounts, and lower prices on other goods when purchased with tobacco was upheld yesterday in a U.S. District Court. A similar ordinance in Providence, RI was upheld by a federal court in 2012.
This decision is a huge victory for New York City and a huge win for public health. New York State has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, and witnessed a significant decrease in the smoking rate as a result. This positive health benefit of the higher tax is being compromised by the tobacco industry’s counter move to offer deep price discounts on cigarettes. By making their products less expensive, the industry can keep them more affordable, especially to young people who are particularly price-sensitive.
New York City and Providence have fought the fight and landed on solid constitutional ground, paving the way for other communities to follow suit. Will the Capital District be next?