Massachusetts to require graphic warnings in tobacco shops

Published on May 24th, 2010 10:12

Within several months Massachusetts could require sellers of tobacco products to place large graphic signs displaying the risks of tobacco use in all the points of sale of tobacco products across the state. By introducing this landmark legislation, Massachusetts will join the vanguard of states with strict anti-tobacco policies.

Graphic images depicting diseased lungs, teeth, tongues and other parts of body harmed by smoking could be required in more than 9,000 stores where tobacco products are sold by the end of this year, in case the proposal introduced by Massachusetts Department of Public Health is approved. The graphic warnings would also provide information regarding state smoking-cessation programs.

Businesses who do not hang the images within 2 feet of tobacco products’ sections and behind the counter will face fines of up to $300 per infraction. Local Retailers Association already declared the bill would be ineffective and ridiculous and claimed that small stores have been overburdened by rigorous laws and requirements.

tobacco waning

In order to be implemented, the bill should be adopted by state Council on Public Health, a committee of physicians, consumer advocates and others, however; the panel members admitted they would support the bill.

The graphic images are modeled on a similar campaign started last year in New York City, with strong graphic warnings depicting health complications caused by tobacco consumption were placed in over 11,000 stores in the City. The authors of Massachusetts signs used the images from NYC stores to show how the campaign will look like.

Catherine Blake, program manager for Smoke-Free Massachusetts Campaign stated that current smokers who are willing to get rid of their pernicious habit are enticed to keep smoking by the colorful packs on the shelves, and placing the graphic images will remind them how hazardous their habit is.

If approved the program will be funded by the money from federal grant, allowing the Department of Public Health to give stores the posters free of any charge. The warnings will be printed by a private company so that the state could comply with the liability to use the grant for opening new job positions.

Graphic signs depicting the hazards of smoking have been very efficient in anti-smoking programs in Europe in recent years. Meantime, in the United States warnings found on the packages of tobacco products always relied more on words than on the pictures, which many psychologists consider ineffective.

The Massachusetts Association of Retailers is thinking about a legal action to contest the measure. The Association chairman, Jon Hurst stated that the greater part of sellers have been very unhappy with this awkward regulation, which is highly concerning for the small stores that rely on sales on tobacco products to give them significant revenues.

Tobacco industry as well didn’t remain silent about the initiative, with Philip Morris USA declaring in a statement that it believes that placing graphic images in the stores should be regulated on the federal level and be uniform for all the states so that not to create competitive disadvantages for certain retailers.

By Kevin Lawson, Staff Writer. Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved.

Related tags: graphic warnings | massachusetts | tobacco Stores | health warnings | tobacco retail

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