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Battle Looms over Tobacco Advertising

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The war continues on tobacco products sold in the City of Buffalo. A local lawmaker is crafting a proposal to crack down on the marketing of tobacco products in the city. It’s a tough measure that, if approved, would be one of the most rigorous laws of its kind in the United States. Buffalo Common Council member Demone Smith took verbal aim recently at ads that, he said, are so prominently displayed outside and inside stores that sell tobacco products. They are ads that, he contends, are aimed specifically at young people. Smith’s proposed legislation calls on the tobacco industry to provide funds so the city can hire inspectors to monitor the tobacco advertising.

“We just want you to cover the amount of money for the inspectors to watch and go into these stores and make sure that people are selling a dangerous product responsibly,” said Smith, speaking at a recent Community Center gathering.

James Calvin, President of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, calls the proposal just the latest assault on his members.

“The proposed ordinance that is being considered by the Buffalo City Council has a lot of convenience stores operators and other retailers that sell tobacco within the City of Buffalo very, very concerned,” Calvin told WNED News.

“It would be redundant. Tobacco sales are already regulated extensively by the federal government and by the state government.”

Calvin say what Smith and others have in mind only serves to put convenience stores at a further competitive disadvantage against Native American retailers who are under no such constraints.

“When you pile on more regulations on the licensed, tax-collecting retail stores in Buffalo, you widen the double standard between our stores and those tribal outlets…that indirectly supply at least half the cigarettes that are consumed in the City of Buffalo,” said Calvin.

But speaking to a community center gathering recently, Councilmember Smith said he is not trying to put retailers out of business. Rather, he said, he just wants tobacco sellers to stop promoting cigarettes to impressionable young people.

“We don’t need all this advertisement. People who smoke know what they’re smoking…but because the signs are below at a child’s eye, you are actually advertising towards kids,” Smith said.

A legal challenge to Smith’s proposal is likely.

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