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NYC Mayor Proposes Tobacco Display Ban

NEW YORK -- It could be a game of hide-and-seek if a new proposal to keep tobacco products out of sight in New York City goes the distance.

The "Tobacco Product Display Restriction" bill would require stores to keep tobacco products in cabinets and drawers under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots. They could only be visible when an adult is making a purchase or during restocking, according to the Associated Press.

"Based on our initial review of the bill, it appears that it would prevent New York City retailers from displaying tobacco products in their stores. We oppose the bill," said Brian May, manager of communications for Altria Client Services. Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, John Middleton and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. 

"Among other reasons, we supported enactment of federal legislation in 2009 that gave [the Food and Drug Administration] the power to regulate tobacco products, including at retail. That legislation included a federal ban on sales to persons under the age of 18, and it also included a federal requirement that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products must be sold in a non-self-service manner,"  May explained.

"To the extent that this proposed law would ban the display of products to adult tobacco consumers, we believe it goes too far," he added. "For these and numerous other reasons, we oppose the bill. "

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said similar prohibitions on displays have been enacted in other countries, including Iceland, Canada, England and Ireland. "Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity," he said. "And they invite young people to experiment with tobacco."

Stores devoted primarily to the sale of tobacco products would be exempt from the display ban. The mayor's office said retail stores could still advertise tobacco products under the legislation.

"We have made tremendous strides in combating smoking in New York City but this leading killer still threatens the health of our children," said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the health commissioner. The legislation, to be introduced in the City Council on Wednesday, is comprised of two separate bills that Farley called "logical, important next steps to further protect our teens from tobacco," according to the AP.

A second proposed piece of legislation, called the "Sensible Tobacco Enforcement" bill, strengthens enforcement of discounted and smuggled cigarettes. It would prohibit the sale of discounted tobacco products, impose packaging requirements on cheap cigars and create a price floor for cigarette packs and small cigars. The city would also have the authority to seal premises where there are repeat violations.

The bill would also increase penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license. Retailers would also be prohibited from redeeming coupons for tobacco products.

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