The New York Times reports in its obituary on former New York mayor Ed Koch, that posters on the Heimlich maneuvre became mandatory in New York restaurants when the mayor got rescued by it:

If you have ever wondered why restaurants in this city, from the greasiest spoons to the most haute of cuisines, must display Heimlich maneuver posters, it is because a choking Mr. Koch was rescued by that technique at a Chinatown restaurant in the summer of 1981. The next thing you knew, he invited Dr. Henry J. Heimlich to City Hall’s Blue Room, allowing himself to be used as a guinea pig while the doctor demonstrated his maneuver for reporters. In short order, the posters became mandatory.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, such a law was signed by Ed Koch three years earlier. The respective law might be §17-172. I cannot find a year when it was passed.

By this NYT article from 1981, the maneuvre was indeed performed on Koch that year, and he invited Dr. Heimlich to the Blue Room.

Although the NYT seems to insinuate some relationship between the maneuvre being performed on Koch and the law being passed, I imagine such a relationship may be difficult to establish, since Koch's motivation and his specific influence on passing the law may be difficult to reconstruct. Thus I would like to limit the question on the mere temporal succession on both events: Was such a law regarding mandatory posters passed shortly after the maneuvre was performed on Koch? The claim is absent in Koch's English Wikipedia article, but appears in its German version. I am skeptical about the claim, but hesitant to change the German article against the authority of the NYT.

1 Answer 1


The New York Times obituary is incorrect. The law was passed in 1978.

I found the law in a 1986 publication of New York City laws (link). That in itself isn't helpful. However, I also noticed the publication had an annotation immediately after each law that included when that particular law was added. Searching for the next law in the sequence (to get around the fact that I can only see a snippet of the search result) shows that the law was added in 1978: "DERIVATION Formerly § 568-1.0 added LL 43/1978 § 1."

You can read a portion of that in this image (the trimmed text on the very top; the law we are interested in is § 17-172):

enter image description here

A 1989 issue of Spy magazine says that the law was passed in December 21, 1978 as Local Law 43, though I don't know how trustworthy that is. An NYC site does include "City Council Local Law 43" on the poster. LL 43 presumably also refers to "Local Law 43."

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