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.
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 when an adult is making a purchase or during restocking.
While New York City would be the first in the nation to do this, Bloomberg says prohibitions began to be implemented in Iceland in 2001 and Canada in 2005, and these countries have already seen substantial declines in youth smoking.
"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, "and youth smoking rates have remained flat at 8.5 percent since 2007."
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.
The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement bill includes the following provisions:
•Increasing penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license.
•Prohibiting retailers from redeeming coupons or honoring other price discounts for tobacco products.
•Creating a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars, which are virtually identical to cigarettes, at $10.50 per pack.
•Requiring that cheap cigars and cigarillos be sold in packages of at least 4, and little cigars be sold in packages of at least 20. Cigars that cost more than $3 each are exempt from the packaging rule.
Bloomberg has backed a number of public health measures, including a crackdown on large sizes of sugary drinks and adding calorie counts to menus. A judge blocked the drinks ban but the city is appealing.
"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."
The bill would also prohibit retailers from redeeming coupons for tobacco products.
"We applaud the Mayor and New York City Council for taking this historic and bold step to protect our youth from aggressive tobacco marketing in stores," said Sheelah Feinberg, Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City.
Copyright 2013 MyFoxNY.com/The Associated Press.