For Immediate Release: July 6, 2007
Contact: Michael Tarnowicz, CT Valley Tobacconist, (888) 566-7879
Contact: Audrey Silk, NYC C.L.A.S.H., (917) 888-9317
Contact: Attorney David Novak (518) 436-0751


Michael Tarnowicz, proprietor of Connecticut Valley Tobacconist, LLC, and licensed exhibitor at the NYS Fair for the last decade, has today filed suit in State Supreme Court in Albany County , contending that the newly imposed policy to ban the sale of tobacco products at the fair  -- at the instigation of Governor Eliot Spitzer – and the denial of his application for a booth this year is arbitrary, discriminatory and exceeds authority.  This lawsuit is sponsored by NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.), the state’s largest smokers’ rights organization.

NYC C.L.A.S.H. believes this is the act to end all acts by the anti-smoking crusaders.  This... is Prohibition.[1]

Reported on April 4th of this year, the NYS fairgrounds were declared dry following a conference call initiated by NYS Fair Director Dan O’Hara with Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines and Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker.  They all agreed to end tobacco sales on the state’s fairgrounds, beginning with the NYS Fair in Syracuse.  

According to published reports, O’Hara said Gov. Spitzer is pushing to make New York “the healthiest state” and that his administration wants to help out with that goal.  

Spitzer, known for his personal vendetta against anything tobacco related as attorney general-- steamrolling over private carriers, credit card companies, and with attempts on Native Americans and the movie industry --now wants to steamroll over small cigar/tobacco merchants, which once again involves flattening smokers.  

“It seems ironic that they want to be the health police but the sale of unhealthy food & alcohol is free flowing at this fair,” says Tarnowicz, “and not only do these ‘healthy’ participants lose a few brain cells, quite a few of them end up in brawls and the police are involved.” 

The lawsuit, filed by attorney David Novak of Hinman Straub law office based in Albany, asserts that named defendants, Hooker and O’Hara, exceeded their authority; that the policy is arbitrary and capricious, violates free speech pursuant to the First Amendment, is preempted by federal law and that they violated the state Administrative Procedures Act.   

This act raises a number of alarms for NYC C.L.A.S.H., an organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and protecting the interests of adults who choose to smoke cigarettes and which stands behind the right of private businesses to sell a legal product to adults. 

 NYC C.L.A.S.H. founder, Audrey Silk, says, “In this case, ‘to promote a healthy New York State’ means to meddle in the private lives and choices of informed adults by restricting accessibility to a legal product.” 

 If “health” is the overall goal there is no explanation for why deep-fried Twinkies and Snickers, and beer and alcohol, are still welcome at the Fair. Regarding trans fat, NYC’s own Health Commissioner, Thomas Frieden, has claimed, “New Yorkers are consuming a hazardous, artificial substance without their knowledge or consent," and compared it to lead paint [2] and asbestos as a “public health threat.” [3] But no, it’s tobacco that’s singled out. “This is product prejudice and consumer group persecution motivated by this feverishly singular hatred of tobacco, smoking, and those associated with either,” Silk says.

“To be clear,” Silk continues, “we’re no longer even discussing the act of being able to smoke since smoking and possession of tobacco is still allowed on the fairgrounds!  The issue and offense is the prohibition of sales. It denies one consumer group the right of opportunity to purchase a product based on a morality and ideology held by those in power and imposed on those with none, not legality of the product.”  Considering it’s the package they are looking to erase from view, Silk wonders, “Have they put the sight of a pack of cigarettes in the same league as a porno mag?”  

The Wikipedia entry on alcohol Prohibition describes that temperance movement this way: 

“When informal controls failed, there were always legal ones.” “[T]he movement evolved into insisting that no one should be permitted to drink any alcohol…  It did so with religious fervor and increasing stridency.”
Modern day anti-smoking started in 1964 with a warning and strong advice not to smoke.  When that failed to convince every last smoker to quit the resisters were coerced to walk down that path with smoking bans and punitive cigarette taxes.  We’re on the verge of reaching exact replication driven by exactly the same hysteria.  

NYC C.L.A.S.H. warns that this policy cannot be dismissed as small and local.  If allowed to proceed the ramifications will be widespread. Like the smoking bans that first crept and then leapt across the country  -- it was New York’s 2003 ban that has been credited for the rapid approval of bans that immediately followed nationally and internationally – the disease starts here and will infect the rest of the state and then country if it isn’t stopped here.  Incrementalism is a cornerstone of Anti-Smoking. Every small tobacco vendor across the country should be worried and those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

To get to the smokers nothing – no one’s private property or historically legal trade – will stand in their way.  The end of a private bar owner’s or tobacco vendor’s business is collateral damage in the war on smokers.

Looking down the gun barrel marked Prohibition and sudden "theft" of income he depended on, Tarnowicz concludes, “The only one feeling ‘sick’ here is us, the retailers.”

Former Assemblyman Daniel Hooker, brother of Patrick Hooker, made these comments on the floor of the Assembly during debate on the smoking ban, Wednesday, March 26th, 2003:

I am chiefly opposed to this bill because it presumes that people are incapable of thinking and acting for themselves without the government telling them what to do… I don’t smoke but believe that others should be free to smoke if they choose to… My general philosophy is that our government spends way too much time telling people what to do and this seems like a good example of that practice… I am opposed.

-- Wishing that Patrick would embrace his own brother's sentiment


[1] “New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer Declares Prohibition,” NYC C.L.A.S.H.

[2] “New York Considers Ban on Trans Fat in Restaurants,” NY Times, September 26, 2006

[3] “Hold That Fat, New York Asks Its Restaurants,” NY Times, August 11, 2005


Disclaimer:  NYC C.L.A.S.H. is a grassroots smokers' rights organization supported by contributions made by private individuals. It has no ties to the tobacco industry in any form.