Out of Sight, Out of Mind: NYC Plans to Stop Display of Cigarettes

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The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, other anti-smoking groups and several City Council members applauded Bloomberg’s announcement, made at a Queens hospital. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who largely controls what goes to a vote, said through her office that she “supports the goal of these bills” but noted they would get a full review.

Some convenience store owners fear the measure could affect their business, by potentially leaving customers uncertain whether the shop carries their favorite brand and making them wait while a proprietor digs out a pack, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience stores.

“It slows down the transaction, and our name is convenience stores,” he said.

Jay Kim, who owns a Manhattan deli on 34th Street, saw the proposal as a bid to net fines.

“I know the city wants to collect money,” he said at his store, where packs of cigarettes can be seen behind the counter, along with numerous signs warning of the dangers of smoking and prohibiting sales to minors.

The displays would be checked as part of the shops’ normal city inspections; information on the potential penalties wasn’t immediately available Monday night. Repeated violations of some of the other provisions, including the minimum-price and coupon ban, could get a store shuttered.

Stores that make more than half their revenue from tobacco products would be exempt from the display ban. Customers under 18, the legal age for buying cigarettes in New York, are barred from such stores without parents.

New York City smokers already face some of the highest cigarette prices in the country. Including taxes, it’s not uncommon for a pack to cost $13 or more in Manhattan. The proposed minimum price, also including taxes, is $10.50.

Other public health measures Bloomberg has championed include pressuring restaurants to use less salt and add calorie counts to menus, and banning artificial trans fats from restaurant meals.

Jennifer Bailey, smoking as she waited for a bus on 34th Street, was no fan of the proposed tobacco restrictions or Bloomberg’s other public health initiatives.

“It’s like New York has become a … dictatorship,” she said.

(Photo: AP)

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