Retailers, Manufacturers Challenge Haverstraw Tobacco Display Ban

NEW YORK NY (06/27/2012)(readMedia)-- The New York Association of Convenience Stores and seven tobacco companies are going to court seeking to overturn an impending ban on displaying tobacco products in stores in the Village of Haverstraw, Rockland County.

NYACS, Lorillard Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., American Snuff Co. LLC, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Brands Inc., and John Middleton Co. filed the civil suit yesterday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

Describing the ban as "a straightforward assault on the content of cigarette advertising and promotion" that violates their First Amendment right to free speech, they asked the court to declare the local law unconstitutional and permanently enjoin the Hudson Valley village from enforcing it.

The Village Board adopted the first-of-its-kind ban in April, claiming the mere sight of packs of cigarettes on a store wall compels minors to start smoking. Under the law, retail shops could continue to sell tobacco, just not display it, instead providing age-verified customers, upon request, with a printed tobacco "menu" to order from.

"Retailers have a fundamental right to communicate with their customers about the products they offer by displaying those products within their own premises," said James Calvin, NYACS President. "The United States and New York State constitutions have long protected this form of commercial speech."

Defendants in the lawsuit are the Village of Haverstraw and the village agencies and officers that were assigned responsibility for enforcing the tobacco product display ban once it takes effect in October 2012.