20 Mar 2013
On the heels of a state judge blocking Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sugary drinks, the New York City mayor is re-focusing his consternation on tobacco. He announced this week plans to prevent stores from displaying tobacco products.
“The proposed law would ‘prohibit display of tobacco products’ in most retail shops, Bloomberg said. ‘Such displays suggest smoking is a normal activity and invite young people to experiment with tobacco.’ He said it would be the first of its kind in the nation,” according to NBC News.
Cigar Rights of America followed Bloomberg’s announcement with an email alert, providing additional details: “Under the new legislation, sellers would be required to keep tobacco products out of sight, except during a purchase by an adult consumer or during restocking. Tobacco products would be required to be kept in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain, or in any other concealed location.”
In a second bill, Bloomberg is proposing to stiffen the penalties for tobacco tax evasion, outlaw tobacco coupons or discounts, and impose a price floor and packaging restrictions on cigarettes and little cigars.
On the surface, these moves by Bloomberg don’t seem to pose grave threats for premium handmade cigars, which are sold mainly through tobacco shops and online (both would be exempt from the display restrictions). But Bloomberg’s actions should nonetheless be closely watched by cigar enthusiasts for two important reasons.
First and foremost, it’s easy to see how display restrictions on tobacco could be a slippery slope that would eventually dismantle cigar shops. At the federal level, there is already some danger of this via the impending regulations that are expected from the FDA, which has newfound authority over tobacco. Don’t underestimate the zealotry of the anti-tobacco movement; despite the fact that tobacco is legal and already heavily taxed and regulated, the movement’s ultimate goal is the outright criminalization of tobacco.
Second, Bloomberg sees New York City as a pioneer of health policies that can be exported to other cities and states, and he believes he has a far-reaching mandate to protect consenting adults from themselves. Remember, in addition to New York’s indoor smoking bans, it is also illegal to smoke outdoors in city parks or sell flavored tobacco. Bloomberg would like to see these policies in your neck of the woods, too. Sort of like New York being a shining beacon of nanny statism for the rest of the country.
photo credit: Flickr