Cigarette manufacturers may see a popular advertising pitch go up in smoke here if the Common Council has its way in banning free cigarette distribution in the city.
The Council Tuesday passed a resolution asking the city's Law Department to draft an ordinance prohibiting tobacco companies from giving out free cigarettes on city streets and at public gatherings.
Council President George K. Arthur, who sponsored the resolution, said the Council would follow New York City's lead in banning the advertising practice.
New York City Council voted 33-0 earlier this month to ban the practice.
Arthur, who is a former smoker, said he does not like the practice.
"I just thought that it was not very tasteful," he said.
"I don't mind them giving them away to adults," Arthur said. But, he added, the free cigarettes often are unwittingly distributed to teen-agers or can fall into the hands of even younger children.
Thomas Lauria, assistant to the president of the Tobacco Institute, said Wednesday that people who are against smoking often get the impression cigarette samples are given to children.
"That's against all industry policy," he said.
Lauria said vendors who distribute cigarette samples must sign an agreement not to give samples to people under the age of 21. The practice is almost exclusively used to introduce new brands of cigarettes to adult smokers, he said.
Free-speech considerations prevented the Council in the past from restricting such practices as outdoor tobacco advertising, officials said. But the city is empowered to prevent distribution of some items on the public streets, Arthur said.
Arthur said he does not expect any opposition to the ordinance in the Council.
Lauria said the tobacco industry is sure to oppose the ordinance, but did not know how strong the opposition will be.