Bloomberg ‘Tobacco Product Display’ bill gets mixed reaction

A week after a judge struck down his sugary drink ban, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is going on another health crusade — this time targeting cigarettes.

The mayor, who spearheaded banning smoking in bars, restaurants, beaches and parks, is proposing a bill that would require New York City retailers to keep tobacco products out of sight except during purchases or restocking, Bloomberg announced on Monday, March 18.

But not everyone is happy with the mayor’s latest health initiative that could once again affect businesses.

“Bloomberg killed business since he came into office. It’s going to hurt sales even more because customers won’t be able to see the different brands,” said Raj Sawlani, an employee at Bayside Smoke Shop.

Sawlani said the store, which has been around for 30 years, has had a 90 percent drop in sales since Bloomberg came into office.

“He keeps adding taxes,” he said.

The mayor and other supporters of the law believe that like high cigarette prices, hiding tobacco products at stores will deter smokers, specifically younger ones.

“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,” said Bloomberg. “Young people are targets of marketing and the availability of cigarettes and this legislation will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking.”

According to Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley, “New York City’s comprehensive smoking prevention program has led to a decrease in the smoking rate in adults from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011.” But “smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in New Yorkers, killing thousands per year, and youth smoking rates have remained flat at 8.5 percent since 2007.”

Young people exposed to tobacco product displays are 2.5 times more likely to start smoking than those who have less exposure, the mayor’s office said in a release.

The 2011 Retail Advertising Tobacco Survey found that 80 percent of the city’s tobacco retailers have “the majority of the area behind the checkout counter devoted to tobacco display.”

The law would allow retail stores to display tobacco advertising.

Other countries, including Canada, England and Australia, have already implemented laws on concealing tobacco products.

According to the AP, last year, the Village of Haverstraw in Rockland County dropped a similar measure after only four months because of a costly lawsuit brought by convenience stores and tobacco companies.

-With additional reporting by Adjani Shah