New York, NY – Mayor Bloomberg Proposes Law Requiring Stores To Hide Cigarettes

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(AP File Photo)New York, NY – Cigarettes would have to be kept out of sight in New York City stores under a first-in-the-nation plan unveiled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday, igniting complaints from retailers and smokers who said they’ve had enough with the city’s crackdowns.

Shops from corner stores to supermarkets would have to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. Officials also want to stop shops from taking cigarette coupons and honoring discounts, and are proposing a minimum price for cigarettes, below what the going rate is in much of the city now, to discourage black market sales.

Anti-smoking advocates and health experts hailed the proposals as a bold effort to take on a habit that remains the leading preventable cause of death in a city that already has helped impose the highest cigarette taxes in the country, barred smoking in restaurants, bars, parks and beaches and launched sometimes graphic advertising campaigns about the effects of smoking.

The ban on displaying cigarettes follows similar laws in Iceland, Canada, England and Ireland, but it would be the first such measure in the U.S. It’s aimed at discouraging young people from smoking.

“Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity,” Bloomberg said. “And they invite young people to experiment with tobacco.”

But smokers and cigarette sellers said the measure was overreaching.

“I don’t disagree that smoking itself is risky, but it’s a legal product,” said Audrey Silk, who’s affiliated with a smokers-rights group that has sued the city over previous regulations. “Tobacco’s been normal for centuries. … It’s what he’s doing that’s not normal.”

Slated to be introduced to the City Council on Wednesday, the anti-smoking proposal was also a sign that a mayor who has built a reputation as a public health crusader isn’t backing off after a setback last week, when a judge struck down the city’s effort to ban supersized, sugary drinks. The city is appealing that decision.

“We’re doing these health things to save lives,” Bloomberg said Monday.

The billionaire mayor, who also has given $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts around the world, began taking on tobacco use shortly after he became mayor in 2002. Adult smoking rates have since fallen by nearly a third — from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

But the youth rate has remained flat, at 8.5 percent, since 2007. Some 28,000 city public high school students tried smoking for the first time in 2011, city officials say.

Keeping cigarettes under wraps could help change that, anti-smoking advocates say. Moreover, it could cut down on impulse buys by smokers who are trying to quit, city officials say.

While some of the research focuses on cigarette advertising, an English study of 11-to-15-year-olds published last month in the journal Tobacco Control found that simply noticing tobacco products on display every time a youth visited a shop raised the odds he or she would at least try smoking by threefold, compared to peers who never noticed the products.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, other anti-smoking groups and several City Council members applauded Bloomberg’s announcement, made at a Queens hospital. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who largely controls what goes to a vote, said through her office that she “supports the goal of these bills” but noted they would get a full review.

Some convenience store owners fear the measure could affect their business, by potentially leaving customers uncertain whether the shop carries their favorite brand and making them wait while a proprietor digs out a pack, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience stores.

“It slows down the transaction, and our name is convenience stores,” he said.

Jay Kim, who owns a Manhattan deli on 34th Street, saw the proposal as a bid to net fines.

“I know the city wants to collect money,” he said at his store, where packs of cigarettes can be seen behind the counter, along with numerous signs warning of the dangers of smoking and prohibiting sales to minors.

The displays would be checked as part of the shops’ normal city inspections; information on the potential penalties wasn’t immediately available Monday night. Repeated violations of some of the other provisions, including the minimum-price and coupon ban, could get a store shuttered.

Stores that make more than half their revenue from tobacco products would be exempt from the display ban. Customers under 18, the legal age for buying cigarettes in New York, are barred from such stores without parents.

New York City smokers already face some of the highest cigarette prices in the country. Including taxes, it’s not uncommon for a pack to cost $13 or more in Manhattan. The proposed minimum price, also including taxes, is $10.50.

Other public health measures Bloomberg has championed include pressuring restaurants to use less salt and add calorie counts to menus, and banning artificial trans fats from restaurant meals.

Jennifer Bailey, smoking as she waited for a bus on 34th Street, was no fan of the proposed tobacco restrictions or Bloomberg’s other public health initiatives.

“It’s like New York has become a … dictatorship,” she said.

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49 COMMENTS

  1. i think yeshivas should ban Chasanim from handing out cigarettes to young bucherim when they get engaged…I started smoking from chusen cigarettes and so did my children in yeshiva..Its time to put a BAN on handing them out,,Its disguting that when a bucher reaches the age of his life time and starting to build a new family and home and at the same time the hand out cigarettes to DESTROY hundreds of bucherim…

  2. I visited my local store yesterday and noticed that all tobacco products are now hidden from public gaze. I should imagine that this is a European Union Directive, but as I do not smoke it does not affect me directly.

    The cashiers were only too pleased to sell other customers as much tobacco and tobacco-related products as they could carry and to pay for, so “human rights” (we are big on that concept over here) are not affected in any way.

    However, if the procedure helps in the slightest way to prevent young people becoming addicted to nicotine addiction then it can only be for the good.

  3. As a parent and grandparent of many, and as an ex-smoker, not that I’m in agreement with Gloomberg’s dictatorial personality, but I DO happen to agree with him on this issue.

    Teens (yes, there are places who don’t card them) are more prone to lust after a cigarette if it’s staring them in the eyes than if it was hidden from view. It’s the same as alcohol.

    Mike, for the first time, I gotta say, “I have your back”!

    • ” … most of probably didn’t like the restrictions our parents put on us as children.”

      No, #36, we did not. However we are no longer children and (in many instances r”l) our parents are no longer alive to dictate to their now adult children what and what not to do. It’s time that the doubtless well-meaning mayor realized that.

    • Banning the sale of tobacco and/or liquor would cause very serious damage to the state’s and the city’s tax-raising abilities. Lower taxation to fund all the myriad projects, schemes and plans from which New York residents benefit would have a deleterious effect on so many non-smokers as well.

  4. This proposed law violates the first amendment of the constitution. Free speech gives me the right to display in my shop the merchandise I am legally selling. But since when does Bloomberg give a darn about the constitution?

      • There is a diff between good business practice and making a law, it’s not smart for business ‘s to place porn out in the open unless that’s all they sell

      • It has nothning to do with what you and I approve or dissaprove. It has to do whether the constitution protects such speach. Incidentally pornography is protected under the first amendment (as per supreme court ruling) as long as children are not exposed to them.

    • Every one is so busy hating this guy, meanwhile all hes trying to do is cut back on things that are killing us. Maybe all you haters should stop wearing seatbelts or deactivate your airbags or go ahead and take out the batteries from your smoke alarms…how could you do things that might actually save your life??

  5. I applaud the Mayor. Everything he has proposed thus far if our own well being. Are his methods a bit unorthodox? Of course they are but most of probably didn’t like the restrictions our parents put on us as children.
    Keep up the good work and thank you for caring

    • Absolutely Agreed. I think its just become instyle on VIN to bad mouth this guy. But when it come to protecting our kids we go all out, hes trying to protect us and we go crazy like a bunch of immature kids.

  6. “Chosson cigarette” is an idiotic and barbaric idea. How could it be that any member of the am hanivchar can be such a wicked rasha as to be machshil people for no good reason?

    Rabbeim and Roshei Yeshiva should outright ban this practice and expel any chosson caught violating that ban.

    Mr. Bloomberg is 1000% right that these deadly products should NEVER be displayed for sale in public view.

  7. I’ve never understood why the distribution of cigarettes, is not better regulated. For example, liquor, which is also a legal product, is only sold at liquor stores, which are licensed. Therefore, why should cigarettes be available at grocery stores? The same grocery stores, in the pharmacy department, sell anti-nicotine devices, to get people to stop smoking. Doesn’t a dichotomy exist, whereby one section of the grocery helps people become addicted to tobacco, and the other tries to get them to stop smoking? Also, haven’t some Rabbonim in the past prohibited the use of cigarettes, as such products endanger health, which is a violation of Halacha. Therefore, why do so many frum Yidden, especially Yeshivah bochurs, insist of smoking? Recently, when I had the Kohen Aliyah, the Levi who was called up, appeared to be a Yeshivah bochur. I couldn’t wait until it was time for me to leave his side, as his clothes smelled from tobacco smoke! It was a very unpleasant odor, which would not have occurred, if that bochur was not addicted to tobacco!

  8. Smoking should be encouraged for a variety of reasons. The first is that it generates a vast amount of taxes, much of which is used to subsidize health care. In addition, it causes people to die earlier. This has at least 2 benefits. The first is that the earlier people die, the less they will collect from social security. The second is that it will reduce health care costs because the longer people live, the more they consume health care.

    • “Smoking should be encouraged for a variety of reasons.. … The first is that the earlier people die, the less they will collect from social security. The second is that it will reduce health care costs because the longer people live, the more they consume health care. “

      This complete fool allmark #45 has clearly never seen a close member of his family dying of lung cancer or from COPD. If he had, he would never have written such an insulting and stupid remark.

      But, then again, orthodox Jewish foolishness knows no limits – as our “dear friend” allmark #45 has just amply proved to us all.

    • not only are you wrong on the pain this causes but you are incredibly wrong on your stupid claims.

      Health care is MUCH higher, as sick smokers require much more, not less health care and services while they wither and die , and the cost of treating them is many times more than any social security they might collect.

      you’re an insensitive idiot.

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