New York city council bans colorful storefront tobacco ads

Monday, March 16, 1998

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)–Albany storefronts are about to get a little less colorful.

Under a city ordinance that goes into effect March 23, businesses face fines of $300 to $1,000 if they do not remove colored cigarette advertisements from their windows, doorways and sidewalks.

The new “Youth Protection Against Tobacco Promotion Act” requires that tobacco ads–known for their vivid colors–will have only black and white text.

Businesses located within 1,000 feet of any school, playground, child day-care center, children’s institution, game room or youth center have even stricter regulations: They are allowed only one black and white text sign inside the shop, no larger than 6 square feet. They are also not allowed to sell or give away non-tobacco products, like as hats or T-shirts, with tobacco brand names or logos.

Shop owners have mixed reactions to the ordinance.

“I think it’s good for the kids,” Roger Shazhad, manager of Sam’s Shops News & Groceries, told the Daily Gazette of Schenectady. “They’re not telling us not to sell cigarettes or anything.”

But Jack Burns, manager of Smoker’s Paradise, said he feels smokers are unfairly picked on.

“I think it goes against constitutional rights,” he said.

But city leaders said the ordinance is not meant to deny free speech, target smokers or harm businesses.

“I would just say studies have shown kids are affected by this advertising,” said Alderman Thomas P. Nitido, who sponsored the legislation. “I am, and the other council members who supported this are great defenders of free speech. But the Supreme Court has delineated a difference between regular free speech and commercial free speech.”

Police will enforce the ordinance, and can ticket offenders on the spot, Nitido said.