Almost a week after a judge blocked his ban on large sugary drinks, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to keep cigarettes out of sight through two new bills he proposed Monday.
The Tobacco Product Display Restriction bill would require stores to keep tobacco products under the counter or in cabinets or other concealed spots.
If approved by the City Council, New York would be the first city in the country to enact this sort of measure.
The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement bill would combat cigarette smuggling and the selling of discount tobacco products, set the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes or cigarillos to $10.50 and increase penalties for the unlicensed sale of tobacco.
There are some loopholes in the bills. Stores can still post signs both outside and inside saying that they sell cigarettes and display cigarette companies' ads. Also, establishments that earn more than half of their revenue from tobacco products would be exempt from the display restrictions.
The new measures aim to reduce the youth smoking rate, which had been dropping since 2001 but in the last few years has plateaued.
After unveiling his new plan Monday, Bloomberg was asked about critics who have criticized his public health proposals as creating a "nanny state," including a New York Post graphic that depicted the mayor as the fictional nanny Mary Poppins.
"Let me tell you how many people are still alive because of it and that's all you care about is a stupid cartoon? I take that as a great badge of honor," Bloomberg said. "It says we're trying to do something to save lives. Didn't you learn as a kid we're on this earth together we should be trying to help each other and save lives. It's one of the most wonderful cartoons I've ever seen."
"Tobacco is an addictive drug that still kills several times more Americans than heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, and all other illegal drugs combined," said Dr. Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner.
The proposals triggered a swift backlash from organizations representing bodegas and convenience stores.
John Calvin, the president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, said, "We think it's totally absurd. Whoever heard of taking away the fundamental right of a retail store to display the products that they are licensed to sell?"
The Bodega Association of the United States is warning that stores will close if the city keeps restricting what they can sell.
"It doesn't make sense," said a bodega owner. "We are still going to be selling it. Just because it is not being displayed, it makes no sense at all."
A bodega owner who supported the bill told NY1, "I like it. The small kids, they won't come and see the cigarettes."
The bills are expected to be introduced to the City Council on Wednesday.