By Matt Pearce
6:30 AM PDT, March 19, 2013
At this rate, New York City is going to run out of vices before it sees another mayor.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced new city legislation that would force retail stores to keep cigarettes out of customers' sight, hidden behind curtains or in drawers -- a see-no-evil, smoke-no-evil approach for the mayor known for making everyone else's health the government's business.
“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 in a statement 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.”
Bloomberg's third-term administration is still smarting from a judge's rejection of his plan to ban super-sized sugary drinks last week, on the grounds that the administration had exceeded its authority by unilaterally implementing the rule rather than going through the City Council.
Opponents of Bloomberg's health measures have sought to portray him as a latter-day Robert Moses, another New Yorker known for reshaping large swaths of city life through heavy-handed authority. Bloomberg, for his part, has been unapologetic about his health regulation efforts in a city where thousands die each year from tobacco-related causes.
“We have made tremendous strides in combating smoking in New York City, but this leading killer still threatens the health of our children,” Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley said in a release. Farley cited statistics that show the smoking rate in adults has dropped from 21.5% in 2002 to 14.8% in 2011.
Bloomberg also proposed a sister bill that would crack down on smuggled and discounted cigarettes.
The mayor has found success in anti-smoking initiatives where his big-soda ban fell short. In 2002, he pushed through an indoor smoking ban, second only to California. An anti-visibility policy would be the nation's first, Bloomberg's office says.
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