Bloomberg Wants Cigarettes Out of Sight

By Ben Feuerherd 03/19/13

NYC's mayor launches a new initiative to keep tobacco products out of store displays.

Can Bloomberg make tobacco disappear?
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His proposed ban on big sodas may have tanked, but Michael Bloomberg is not giving up his crusade for public health. On Monday, the New York City mayor proposed a new legislation that would require stores to keep tobacco products hidden from sight. The measure would be the first of its kind in the nation, and Bloomberg argues it would help prevent young people from picking up the habit. “Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity, and they invite young people to experiment with tobacco,” he said. “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.” The mayor has had past success in his war on Big Tobacco, pushing through one of the country's toughest bans on public smoking in 2002. But tobacco-related causes still kill thousands of New Yorkers each year. “We have made tremendous strides in combating smoking in New York City, but this leading killer still threatens the health of our children,” said Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley, citing statistics that show the smoking rate in adults has dropped from 21.5% in 2002 to 14.8%  in 2011. Still, some believe the mayor's crusade against cigarettes has gone too far. "I don't disagree that smoking itself is risky, but it's a legal product," says Audrey Silk, founder of the Brooklyn-based Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, "Tobacco's been normal for centuries...It's what he's doing that's not normal."

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter