A new proposal would require New York City retailers to keep tobacco products out of sight under a first-in-the-nation proposal aimed at reducing the youth smoking rate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
“New York City has dramatically lowered our smoking rate, but even one new smoker is one too many — especially when it’s a young person,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
The legislation would require stores to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. They could only be visible during restocking or when an adult is making a purchase.
Bloomberg said similar prohibitions on displays have been enacted in other countries, including Iceland, Canada, England and Ireland.
“Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity,” Bloomberg said. “And they invite young people to experiment with tobacco.”
Stores devoted primarily to the sale of tobacco products would be exempt from the display ban.
The mayor’s office said retail stores could still advertise tobacco products under the legislation.
“We have made tremendous strides in combating smoking in New York City but this leading killer still threatens the health of our children,” said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the health commissioner.
Farley said the city’s comprehensive anti-smoking program cut adult smoking rates by nearly a third — from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011 — but the youth rate has remained flat, at 8.5 percent, since 2007.
But an industry group said the proposal was too much.
“It’s an over-the-top attempt to control the sale of a legal product,” said Andy Kerstein, president of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. “There has to be a commonsense approach to it that isn’t designed to basically kill the industry. … As Bloomberg has shown you, it is not going to stop with tobacco. What’s the next thing he’s going to do, size portions on steaks?”
But Bloomberg, who suffered a major defeat last Monday when a judge blocked his ban on large sodas, said that his goal is just to improve quality of life in the city.
“People always say, ‘Oh, you’re doing these health things to raise money,’” Bloomberg said. “No, that is not the reason. We’re doing these health things to save lives.”
Jay Kim, who owns a deli on 34th Street 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, did not accept that from the mayor.
“I know the city wants to collect money,” he said.
The legislation, to be introduced at the mayor’s request in the City Council on Wednesday, also would prohibit the sale of discounted tobacco products, impose packaging requirements on cheap cigars and create a price floor for packs and small cigars.
The city would have the authority to seal premises where there are repeat violations.
Jennifer Bailey, smoking as she waited for a bus on 34th Street, was no fan of Bloomberg’s other public health initiatives.
“It’s like New York has become a mini-Russia, a dictatorship,” she said.