A new proposal would require New York City retailers to keep tobacco products out of sight under a first-in-the-nation plan aimed at reducing the youth smoking rate, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
The proposal is just the latest public health measure Bloomberg has backed, including pressuring restaurants to use less salt, adding calorie counts to menus and banning some large sizes of sugary drinks. A judge blocked the drinks ban this month but the city is appealing.
The new legislation would require stores to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. 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," he 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.
"We have made tremendous strides in combatting smoking in New York City but this leading killer still threatens the health of our children," said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner.
Farley said the city's comprehensive antismoking 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.
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, a trade group.