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Tobacco coupons

With food labeling laws, proposed bans on large sugary drinks and now, new plans to restrict the sale of tobacco products, you might wonder – what’s next? Banning coupons for products that aren’t good for you?

Why yes, that’s exactly what New York City is proposing.

In announcing a plan to help reduce the smoking rate yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg detailed legislation that would set a minimum price on tobacco products, and force retailers in the city to keep those products out of sight. They would have to be kept in a “concealed location”, such as in a cabinet or drawer, under the counter or behind a curtain.

Also, notably, the proposal would forbid retailers from accepting coupons or honoring discounts on tobacco products. That’s right – companies can continue to issue as many coupons as they’d like, but New York City supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers would be barred by law from accepting them.

We’re talking tobacco here, which is a hot button issue. So even some who might not otherwise support such moves, might support them in this case. “Coupons are a way to bring the price down, and keep people smoking,” argues Dr. Kelvin Choi of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He recently authored a study that found 80% of smokers who received coupons from tobacco companies, used them. And, he said, “smokers who receive these coupons think the tobacco industry cares about their health and well-being.”

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But others worry that banning tobacco coupons is a slippery slope. If you can ban retailers from accepting coupons on cigarettes, what’s to stop lawmakers from banning retailers from accepting coupons on junk food? Fast food? Or on those large sugary drinks?

It’s worth noting that Bloomberg’s tobacco announcement comes a week after a judge struck down his plan to ban big sugary drinks. The city is appealing the decision, but if it holds, the tobacco legislation could be a model for an end run around the judge’s ruling. If the city were to, say, set a minimum price on large sugary drinks, and ban the acceptance of coupons and discounts, it could make them so unappealing that no one would buy them anymore.

Bloomberg has had more success with his effort to get restaurant chains to post calorie counts on their menu items. After New York City implemented that law, the federal government followed with similar plans of its own. But there have been some bumps in the road. The Food and Drug Administration is struggling to write regulations that take everyone’s interests into account. As first envisioned, the federal regulations would cover not only restaurants, but any establishment that serves prepared food.

And supermarkets and convenience stores are crying foul. Erik Lieberman of the Food Marketing Institute tells the Associated Press that grocery stores could be forced to provide calorie information on thousands of items, such as bakery products made on the premises, and packages of cut fruit or diced vegetables. The rules, he warns, could cost the industry up to a billion dollars – which would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Health advocates say if that’s what it takes to get us all to make healthier choices, so be it.

So go ahead and use those junk food coupons, grab your big sugary drink and that unlabeled bakery item you got from the grocery store, and enjoy – while you still can.

Image source: ClearWay Minnesota

2 Comments

  1. Mommylommy says:

    It seems Bloomberg has a God complex and wants to control everything he can. He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks (we’re supposed to just blindly follow him) he WILL have his way. This is the most dangerous kind of governing there is. Someone that tells you what you can buy, what you can drink, how you can spend your money is NOT something a free society should accept. This may seem like it’s “for your own good”, but really? There should be bells going off for everyone that accepts blindly what the government tells you what to do without question and a true legislative process.

  2. I could go on for days….But this is the DUMBEST part:
    “Coupons are a way to bring the price down, and keep people smoking,” argues Dr. Kelvin Choi of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He recently authored a study that found 80% of smokers who received coupons from tobacco companies, used them. And, he said, “smokers who receive these coupons think the tobacco industry cares about their health and well-being.”

    Coupons bring the price down? NO! Really? Nobel Prize for THAT genius—-> but that’s not the dumb part.

    This is: Complying with the LAW is misleading the consumer?

    Law #1: Tobacco Cos can only send coupons to those who request them. (I generally use the coupons I ask for. And 80% sounds low.)

    Law #2: Tobacco Advertising/materials MUST contain warnings on the dangers of consuming the products.
    Law # 2.5: Tobacco Cos MUST provide information on ways to quit smoking and provide information to get assistance. (Is this why people ‘think’ tobacco companies care?)

    Funny thing about “Dictators In Training”. The “Training” part never stops. & the “Dictating” become more and more bizzare and intrusive.
    (rather like a bratty child. Constantly pushing at the limits-trying to move that bar a little further each day. & it will continue until the grown-ups stand up and tell them “no”.)

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