Bloomberg’s latest anti-smoking push would require stores to hide cigarettes

·National Correspondent

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing for a new citywide law requiring stores to physically conceal cigarettes and other tobacco products behind counters, curtains or cabinets—anywhere out of public view—as part of a new anti-smoking initiative.

The legislation would also increase penalties on the smuggling and illegal sales of cigarettes as part of an effort that Bloomberg said would help curb the youth smoking rate and promote a healthier New York City.

“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,” Bloomberg said at a press conference on Monday. “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 push comes just days after a judge overturned regulation backed by Bloomberg that would have limited the sales of large sugary drinks in New York City. Among other things, the judge in that case criticized Bloomberg for enacting the so-called “soda ban” by going through the city’s Health Department instead of the New York City Council.

While the city is appealing that decision, Bloomberg signaled a different policy tactic with his latest anti-smoking measure, announcing that he will present the legislation before the City Council later this week. If approved, New York City would be the first city in the nation to "conceal" tobacco products, Bloomberg said.

The move is just the latest anti-smoking effort pursued by Bloomberg, an ex-smoker. In 2002, he signed into law legislation that banned smoking in New York City bars and restaurants. In 2011, Bloomberg expanded that regulation to include public parks.

Bloomberg’s latest bill is likely to face heavy opposition from the tobacco industry as well as bodegas and other stores that depend heavily on the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

City officials said any store where tobacco products make up more than 50 percent of its inventory would be exempt from the new rules.

The mayor has faced heavy criticism for his efforts to pass sweeping health regulations. At his news conference on Monday, Bloomberg bristled when he was asked about a recent illustration in the New York Daily News that depicted him as a “nanny” mayor—at first calling it a “stupid cartoon.” But Bloomberg, who was clearly irritated by the question, quickly reversed course and called the cartoon a “great badge of honor” because of “how many people are still alive” because of the health regulations he’s pursued as mayor.

“It’s the most wonderful cartoon I have ever seen,” Bloomberg insisted.