Anti-smoking advocates and health experts hailed proposals from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that would keep cigarettes out of sight in New York City stores, while tobacco companies and smokers called it an overreach.
The ban, which would be the only one of its kind currently in the U.S., is aimed at discouraging young people from smoking.
Keeping cigarettes under wraps could help, anti-smoking advocates say, citing studies that link exposure to smoking with starting it. 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, though it’s below what the going rate is in much of the city now.
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 threefold that he or she would at least try smoking.
“What’s exciting about this is that this is the most comprehensive set of tobacco-control regulations that affect stores or the retail outlets,” said Kurt Ribisl, a professor of public health and cancer prevention specialist at the University of North Carolina.
The ban on displaying cigarettes follows similar laws in Iceland, Canada, England and Ireland, but it would be the only such measure in the U.S.
A suburban New York village, Haverstraw, passed such a display ban last April but rescinded it four months later, saying it wanted to end a potentially pricey lawsuit brought by tobacco companies and convenience stores.
“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 thatnot normal.”