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NY mayor wants to ban stores from displaying cigarettes

NEW YORK -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday proposed banning retail stores from displaying cigarettes as part of his effort to reduce smoking rates in the city.

Bloomberg, who has taken aggressive steps to curb smoking in public places and promote health with various restrictions on restaurants, plans to introduce to the City Council on Wednesday two bills that would require retailers to keep cigarettes in a drawer or other concealed location.

"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 told a news conference.

Stores would still be allowed to advertise and display pricing information for the tobacco products they sell, but the actual products would have to be hidden from public view except during a sale or during restocking.

The legislation would also increase the penalties on stores that illegally resell cigarettes smuggled in from states with lower tobacco taxes and would prohibit retailers from redeeming discount coupons on tobacco sales.

Bloomberg expects to have the council's support, although a vote was not expected immediately, a spokeswoman for the mayor said.

New York City already bans smoking in most offices, restaurants, bars, parks and beaches. Bloomberg has also taken steps to curtail the use of trans fats and salt in the city's restaurants. Last week a court struck down his attempt to limit the size of sugary drinks.

Tobacco specialty stores, already banned from admitting customers under the age of 18, would be exempt from the requirement on the display of cigarettes.

Countries such as Canada had seen a decline in smoking rates after introducing similar laws, city officials said, and they hoped it would reduce impulse purchases of cigarettes.

The bills are being introduced a little over a week after Bloomberg's efforts to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in the city was unexpectedly quashed by a judge. The city is appealing that ruling.