Losing ban on big sodas, Bloomberg takes on cigarettes and wants them hidden from view

NEW YORK (WPIX) -- Fresh off a court defeat of his plan to limit the sale of large sugary sodas in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set his sights on one of his earliest public-health targets -- smoking.

Bloomberg wants stores to conceal cigarettes to help stamp out sales of the packs. If his plan is approved, New York would become the first city in the nation to mandate the concealment of cigarette displays. Such restrictions are already in place in several countries, including Ireland, Iceland, England, Canada and New Zealand.

“The most important thing we can do is stop our kids from smoking,” Bloomberg said Monday, adding that the goal was to reduce the rate of smoking among young people. But the restrictions would also conceivably help adults who are fighting to kick the habit for good, the administration said.

In 2003, Mayor Bloomberg successfully banned smoking in New York City restaurants and bars. Since that time, smoking among city adults has declined from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011.

Unlike his failed big-soda ban, which was an executive action, the plan to hide cigarettes at retail locations would have to be approved by the city council. At Bloomberg’s request, a bill would be introduced by councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, chairwoman of the Health Committee, on Wednesday.

Cigarettes would have to be hidden by a counter,  kept in cabinets or concealed by a curtain, except when an adult is purchasing them or the items are being restocked.