Jessica: New York City has become the center for testing out controversial public health rules. It was the first city in the United States to require restaurant chains to post calorie counts on menus. New York is also trying to outlaw large sugary drinks. And now the city’s mayor wants to cut down on teen smoking by making it illegal for most stores to prominently display the cigarettes they sell.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity and they invite young people to experiment with tobacco.
Jessica: The Bloomberg administration says young people who are frequently exposed to tobacco product displays are two-and-a-half times more likely to start smoking.
If the city council passes the new rule, most stores would not be allowed to show cigarettes on shelves but could still advertise they sell cigarettes. There are similar laws in Iceland, Canada, England and Ireland. The idea was immediately criticized by the New York Association of Convenience Stores who said, ‘The notion of forcing licensed, tax-collecting, law-abiding retailers to hide their tobacco inventory is patently absurd.’ The group went on to say, ‘Seeing beer in a beverage center doesn’t make kids start drinking. Seeing lottery tickets in a bodega doesn’t make them start gambling. But the cigarette rack apparently has telepathic powers.’
Fred Mogul: Obviously, Mayor Bloomberg has ruffled a lot of feathers. people are very concerned that, is this a role the government has to play?
Jessica: The government has a history of battling tobacco companies. The Food and Drug Administration tried to force tobacco companies to include large, graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. But an appeals court ruled the labels, with their images of diseased lungs and corpses, violated the First Amendment right to free speech.
This week, the government said it won’t fight that decision. But the FDA is now trying to design new warning labels. And in Texas, lawmakers are considering raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
Eric Macias: There’s a hundred and one things that could kill me today. Why worry about something that’s could kill me twenty years from now?
Jessica: Well, New York City’s mayor is worried and says he will do whatever he can to protect those living in his city. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death among New Yorkers, killing 7,000 people every year. And despite those numbers, the smoking rate among young people hasn’t changed since 2007, remaining stuck at 8.5%.
The mayor hopes his latest proposal will discourage teens from taking up the deadly habit, saying one new smoker is one too many.
Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.