NYC's Next Health Proposal: Hiding Tobacco In Stores

8:41 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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NEW YORK (CBS) -- The mayor known for public health campaigns wants to unveil a new nation's first: requiring convenience stores that sell tobacco to keep their products completely out of sight.

The new proposal would be the first-of-its-kind aimed at reducing the youth smoking rate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday.

The legislation would require stores to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. They only time tobacco products would be seen is when an adult is making a purchase or during restocking.

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, however, 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.

Since Mayor Bloomberg came into office in 2001, several public health campaigns have been put in place, some of which have since been adopted elsewhere in the country. His administration has cracked down on smoking at workplaces and in bars and restaurants, and in recent years, at the city's public parks and beaches.

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.

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death among New Yorkers, Farley said.

The legislation, to be introduced in the City Council on Wednesday, is comprised of two separate bills that Farley called "logical, important next steps to further protect our teens from tobacco."

The second bill, called the "Sensible Tobacco Enforcement" bill, strengthens enforcement of discounted and smuggled cigarettes. It would prohibit the sale of discounted tobacco products, impose packaging requirements on cheap cigars and create a price floor for cigarette packs and small cigars. The city would have the authority to seal premises where there are repeat violations.

The bill would also increase penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license. Retailers would also be prohibited from redeeming coupons for tobacco products.

Bloomberg has backed a number of other public health measures. He has banned trans fats from restaurant meals, forced chain eateries to post calorie counts on menus and was set to enact a ban on sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces as of March 12, 2013. A judge, however, stepped in the day before and ruled the city could not enforce the regulations.

The mayor's office has said it will appeal.

"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."

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