Gorier warnings are proposed for cigarettes packs
ALBANY, N.Y. -- On the last day before New York increased cigarette taxes by 55 cents a pack, an anti-smoking group Tuesday proposed that cigarettes sold in the state carry bolder, often gory, warning labels.
Also Tuesday, Gov. George Pataki proposed a bill designed to prevent minors from receiving cigarettes ordered over the Internet and to increase penalties for tobacco smuggling in New York.
The American Cancer Society said cigarettes packs sold in the state should carry 2-inch-by-2-inch labels on the front and the back warning of the dangers of smoking. The labels would be printed on clear cellophane wrappers and be in addition to the surgeon general's warnings already printed on packs by manufacturers.
The Cancer Society proposal is patterned after warnings that the Canadian government has proposed putting on cigarette packs sold in that country. Covering up to 50 percent of the face of the pack, the labels refer to the hazards of smoking such as impotence and a lifetime addiction to tobacco.
Some labels carry graphic photographs of a lung with cancer and of the teeth and gums of a person with mouth cancer.
The labels would take the place of the current stamp, less than a half-inch square, that must now be affixed to cigarette wrappings to signify that state taxes have been paid on that pack.
With New York's cigarette taxes going up from 56 cents a pack to $1.11 a pack as of Wednesday, the bootlegging of cigarettes to avoid state taxes is expected to become more attractive to criminals. By having bolder labels which also carry tax stamps, it would be readily apparent when cigarette taxes have been properly paid and which packs have been smuggled into New York, said advocates for the new labels.
Adding the labels also would put a crimp in the style of cigarette companies whose products are designed to entice young smokers, anti-smoking advocates said.
"We need to hit the industry where it hurts by creating a diversion on the clever packaging of today's cigarettes," said Elizabeth Miller, chief executive officer of the American Lung Association's New York chapter.
A bill providing for the bigger warning labels will be introduced by next week in the state Legislature by state Assemblyman Alexander Grannis, D-Manhattan, and state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Nassau.
Meanwhile, Pataki proposed a bill that would prohibit the shipping of cigarettes to anyone in New York except for licensed cigarette dealers or agents. There are about 20,000 such agents in the state.
Pataki and the state Legislature approved increasing the cigarette tax last December as a way of raising $400 million a year to help fund a new medical insurance program for working poor New Yorkers. The cigarette tax increase, which takes effect today, is the first in New York since 1993.