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Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy hosts “point-of-sale” summit

(Boston, Revised 03/04/11) New England Law | Boston: A trip to the corner store for milk or bread can be hazardous to your health.  Before you reach the checkout line you’re likely to be exposed multiple times to slick promotions for addictive, cancer-causing products.

Professor Micah Berman Center director Micah Berman

Many typical methods of advertising, such as billboards and TV commercials, are off limits to tobacco companies, which makes point-of-sale (POS) displays all the more important.  Eye-catching arrays, carefully designed to appeal to youths, African Americans, and other targeted groups, are placed in premium locations that make them hard to miss.

New England Law | Boston’s Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy (CPHTP) convened a POS summit in October 2010, featuring prominent experts from across the U.S. and Canada.  The meeting, held in Albany, NY, provided practical information on combating POS tobacco marketing and reducing tobacco retailer density.

Attendees received an overview of pertinent legal issues and heard success stories from the trenches.  A presenter from the San Francisco Department of Public Health shared how her city put pharmacies off limits for tobacco sales, and the executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada reviewed laws in Canadian provinces that prohibit the display of tobacco products.

“Tobacco companies spend most of their marketing budget – billions of dollars every year – at the retail stores where tobacco is sold,” notes center director Micah Berman, assistant professor of law.  “They know that this is where decisions about tobacco purchases are made, and they want to sell as many cigarettes as possible.  Tobacco-control advocates need to respond with innovative policy solutions, and the recent Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives local communities new tools to address tobacco marketing.”  

In 2009, New England Law received a five-year, approximately $2.5 million grant to develop and operate a policy resource center for New York State’s tobacco control program efforts.  The CPHTP is a project of the Center for Law and Social Responsibility and is also affiliated with the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

The center has quickly established itself as an important regional voice.  New England Law hosted an on-campus panel discussion in October, featuring Professor Berman; D. J. Wilson ’89, tobacco control director for the Massachusetts Municipal Association; and Chris Banthin, a senior attorney with the Public Health Advocacy Institute.  In September, Professor Berman provided a keynote address at a statewide conference sponsored by the Vermont Tobacco Evaluation & Review Board.

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