The nation’s three biggest tobacco companies are taking on the city health department’s anti-smoking campaign.

 

R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and Lorillard filed a lawsuit in Manhattan’s federal court against the city on Thursday over the graphic posters of lungs and hearts that stores are mandated to post near cash registers.

 

The companies, joined by two New York retailers and two trade associations, claim the ads violate the First Amendment.

 

“The signs … do not describe the risks of smoking in purely factual terms,” the suit claims. “Instead, the signs force tobacco manufacturers and retailers to communicate vivid images at the point of sale and the exhortation of ‘Quit Smoking Today.’”


Health Department officials called point-of-purchase warnings “one of the best tools” to prevent new smokers from becoming addicted.


“By trying to suppress this educational campaign, the tobacco industry is signaling its desire to keep kids in the dark,” a Health Department spokesperson said.