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New York cigarette ban: Can it succeed where soda ban failed? (+video)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants stores to stop displaying cigarettes publicly. But if the ban is adopted, it could face legal challenges.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / March 19, 2013

Cigarette packs are displayed at a convenience store in New York Monday. A new antismoking proposal would make New York the first city in the nation to keep tobacco products out of sight in retail stores.

Mark Lennihan/AP

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New York

His soda ban overturned by a judge one day before it was set to go into effect, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is looking to smoke out another public health concern: tobacco.

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The mayor wants to ban the public display of tobacco products in stores, which would make it the first such law of its kind in the country if passed.

Opponents, including the Retail Council of New York State and the New York Association of Grocery Stores, have already vowed to fight the ban, which they call an overreach. The result could be that any potential tobacco ban might face challenges from the industry similar to those encountered by the soda ban, legal experts say.

“They will challenge it,” says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. “They were making a lot of noise yesterday. I wouldn’t want my livelihood limited either. I understand that.”

Under Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, retailers including grocery stores, convenience stores, and corner bodegas would have to keep tobacco products out of sight – in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, or behind a curtain. The city is also seeking to prohibit the use of coupons and discounts on cigarettes, as well as instating a minimum price for cigarettes.

The measure is designed to discourage young people from smoking, Bloomberg said in his address.

“Such displays suggest that smoking is normal activity,” he said in a briefing Monday. “And they invite young people to experiment with tobacco.”

“New York City has dramatically lowered our smoking rate, but even one new smoker is one too many – especially when it’s a young person,” he added. “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 ban is the latest in a series of smoking bans and ambitious public health initiatives the mayor has pushed since taking office. In 2002, the city passed legislation banning smoking in bars and restaurants, and in 2011 it banned smoking in public places like parks, plazas, and beaches.

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