One week after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban was blocked in court, Bloomberg announced a new health initiative, this time in an attempt to further reduce the smoking rate among the city’s youth.
The Tobacco Product Display Restriction bill, announced March 18, would require retail stores to stop displaying tobacco products. The law, however, does not ban the advertising of tobacco products.
“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,” Bloomberg said in a press release.
The city has an 8.5 percent teen smoking rate, which is lower than the state average of 12.5 percent as well as the national average of 18.1 percent. However, the city’s low rate has remained stagnant since 2007.
If passed, New York City would be the first city in the United States to have this type of legislation in place. Last year Haverstraw, N.Y. passed an identical law, but repealed it after a lawsuit was filed against the town by a number of tobacco companies and the New York Association of Convenience Stores, an Albany-based convenience-store trade organization.
Jim Calvin, president of the NYACS, called the proposed legislation “absurd” and said it would compound the growing problem of cigarette tax evasion in New York City.
“If the few small groups that still come in our stores looking to buy cigarettes don’t see their favorite brand displayed in our store, they’re going to assume that we don’t carry it,” Calvin said. “They’re going seek out unlicensed, unregulated, untaxed sources of cigarettes.”
Calvin added that many teenagers do not get cigarettes from retail stores but from older relatives or acquaintances.
“It would seem to me that if three-quarters or more of teenage smokers are getting their cigarettes in that manner, that would be the primary focus rather than heaping more regulations onto the licensed retail stores,” he said.
Dr. Cheryl Healton, NYU dean of global public health, acknowledged that parental use is a factor in the initiation of teen smoking but said that Bloomberg’s proposal has been effective in other countries, such as Canada and Australia, in reducing youth access to cigarettes.
“Policy initiatives like the one the mayor is proposing which limit the time, place and manner of sale can lower smoking rates,” she said. “[He] is to be commended.”
Tisch freshman Alex Randazzo still did not think Bloomberg’s proposal would be effective in reducing teen smoking.
“I don’t really see what it would accomplish,” he said. “Seeing their parents smoke or even just watching actors smoke in movies has more of an effect than seeing it in a store window.”