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NEW YORK -- Like several of his other proposals, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to ban in-store tobacco displays is getting some push back, with the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) raising its collective voice in opposition.
"The notion of forcing licensed, tax-collecting, law-abiding retailers to hide their tobacco inventory is patently absurd," the group said in a statement to CBS News. "Seeing beer in a beverage center doesn't make (kids) start drinking; seeing lottery tickets in a bodega doesn't make them start gambling; seeing condoms in a pharmacy doesn't make them engage in premarital sex; but that cigarette rack apparently has telepathic powers."
The association, which is based in Albany, N.Y., represents 180 companies that operate more than 1,500 c-stores collectively. The issue is of key concern because cigarettes remain the No. 1 category in the convenience channel.
As CSNews Online previously reported, Bloomberg proposed two bills regarding the display and sale of tobacco products at retail. 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.
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.
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.
In addition, the bill would increase penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license, and prohibit retailers from redeeming coupons for tobacco products.
The proposed legislation, according to Bloomberg, is aimed at keeping tobacco products out of the hands of youth. It follows on the heels of several other health-related initiatives, the mayor noted.
Not all of Bloomberg’s efforts have been successful. For example, the mayor was behind the city's bid to ban the sale of sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces at establishments currently regulated by the New York City Board of Health. The measure was set to go into effect on March 12 but was struck down at the last minute by State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Bloomberg targeted the tobacco category before -- and failed. In September 2009, the New York City Board of Health approved a code change that required the display of smoking cessation signs where tobacco products are sold. In June 2010, several plaintiffs filed suit challenging the move. The point-of-service measure was struck down twice in court, most recently in July when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a 2010 district decision striking down the resolution, finding that such mandates were preempted by federal law.
The latest tobacco initiative is set to be introduced to the New York City Council tomorrow.