On the heels of his failed effort to combat rising rates of obesity by banning the sale of large sugary drinks, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is tackling a new public health initiative: dissuading Americans, and especially youth, from purchasing tobacco products.
Bloomberg is pushing a proposal that would ban stores from displaying cigarettes, which would make New York the first city in the nation to attempt to curb smoking by keeping tobacco products out of sight. The initiative wouldn’t prevent stores from advertising cigarettes or displaying the prices of their products — but it could significantly change the atmosphere in the city’s small corner stores. As the New York Times puts it, “In many of these stores, cigarettes are like wallpaper, the backdrop that every customer sees when going to the register to pay.”
But, considering the fact that tobacco kills an estimated 7,000 New Yorkers each year, Bloomberg doesn’t want customers to be exposed to that backdrop any longer. “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 explained at a press briefing to unveil his new proposal.
Bloomberg has been a big proponent of anti-smoking initiatives, including public awareness campaigns and increased cigarette taxes, during his time in office. Those efforts have paid off. Smoking rates in the city have plummeted from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011. Despite the model that New York City provides for the rest of the nation, however, other states haven’t followed suit — austerity policies have led states across the country to slash funding for their smoking cessation programs over the past decade, even when those programs have proved to be effective.