It wasn’t long ago when it seemed that the tobacco lobby’s stranglehold over New York policymaking was finally broken. In addition to federal court decisions, state actions were being taken. During the years of the Pataki Administration, the state raised its tobacco tax, enacted one of the nation’s most sweeping restrictions on smoking in public places and in work environments. The Spitzer Administration bolstered funding for the state’s tobacco control efforts, helping it rise to the 5th most well-resourced program in the nation. In the Paterson Administration, New York raised its tobacco tax rate to the highest in the nation.
Tobacco companies are an extreme example of how greed trumps morality in America’s marketplace. Every year roughly 500,000 smokers die from tobacco use and the industry knows it must at least replace those lost customers – plus the ones who successfully quit the addiction.
A federal appeals court ruled last week that tobacco companies are not required to comply with the implementation of new graphic warning labels on cigarette packs, arguing that the law violated corporate free speech rights. These warnings are required by the federal government and are supposed to go into effect next month.