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    Business Owners Voice Opposition to NYC Tobacco Proposals

    Health committee must clear the measures before heading to the city council for a vote.

    NEW YORK -- Several tobacco measures before the New York City Council would be bad for business. That was the message business owners sent to the council's health committee on Thursday afternoon.

    The committee is currently reviewing three proposals that would directly affect the way tobacco products are displayed at retail and who can buy them. Last week, council members -- led by Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- proposed raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21, up from the current legal age of 18.

    The move came a month after Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed two bills aimed at tobacco retailing. These include the "Tobacco Product Display Restriction" bill, which would require stores to keep tobacco products in cabinets and drawers under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots.

    The second proposal, the "Sensible Tobacco Enforcement" bill, 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, as CSNews Online previously reported.

    Though the measures have the support of health officials and anti-smoking advocates, many in the business community see them as simply more obstacles to their livelihood, according to NY1.com.

    "For this body and the mayor to assault these businesses and to drive the biggest black market in the history of the city of New York, rivaling the drug market, that is unconscionable," said David Schwartz of the New York Association of Grocery Stores. "It is mandates like these that force responsible, compliant small businesses out of business."

    In addition, Chong Sik Lee of the New York Korean American Grocers Association told the committee that the mandates could "force responsible, compliant small business out of business."

    At least one city official has some reservations about the proposed changes. City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens) expressed hesitancy with a bill that would fine shop owners if they openly display tobacco products, according to the news site.

    "These goals are good ones, but I'm also a business person and these businesses are struggling," Vallone Jr. said. "A $1,000 fine for leaving a drawer open is too much."

    The council's health committee must clear the bills before they move to the full city council for a vote.

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