To the editor:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on March 18 that he is sending legislation to the city council that would ban stores from being able to openly display tobacco products. This is not the first law to be put forward on this initiative. In April 2012, the village of Haverstraw in Rockland County, N.Y., passed the first law in the United States that would regulate tobacco displays in retail stores. Unfortunately, seven tobacco manufacturers and the New York Association of Convenience Stores fought the display regulations and filed a federal lawsuit again Haverstraw. To avoid the risk of incurring hefty legal fees to fight the lawsuit, the village rescinded the law.
As Mayor Bloomberg points out, the tobacco companies are targeting youth with their packaging and displays, and they have been very successful in doing so. Ninety percent of current adult smokers started smoking at or before the age of 18 and 99 percent by the age of 26. Research shows that kids who shop at stores with tobacco marketing two or more times a week are 64 percent more likely to start smoking than their peers who don't. There may be other factors that contribute to youth smoking, but marketing has a direct link, and it's something our communities can do something about!
We congratulate Mayor Bloomberg on his forward thinking and desire to protect our youth. The initial reaction will undoubtedly be similar to the reaction to smoking bans in restaurants and bars. These policies have been shown significant negative impacts on those businesses. It has become the norm now, and in time, we are hoping that display bans, and not smoking where our children can be exposed to it, will also become the norm.
Senior public health educator
Clinton County Health Department
Adirondack Tobacco Free Network