NEW YORK —
"We're doing these health things to save lives," Bloomberg said Monday.
The billionaire mayor, who also has given $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts around the world, began taking on tobacco use shortly after he became mayor in 2002. Adult smoking rates have since fallen by nearly a third — from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.
But the youth rate has remained flat, at 8.5 percent, since 2007. Some 28,000 city public high school students tried smoking for the first time in 2011, city officials say.
Keeping cigarettes under wraps could help change that, anti-smoking advocates say. Moreover, it could cut down on impulse buys by smokers who are trying to quit, city officials say.
While some of the research focuses on cigarette advertising, an English study of 11-to-15-year-olds published last month in the journal Tobacco Control found that simply noticing tobacco products on display every time a youth visited a shop raised the odds he or she would at least try smoking by threefold, compared to peers who never noticed the products.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, other anti-smoking groups and several City Council members applauded Bloomberg's announcement, made at a Queens hospital. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who largely controls what goes to a vote, said through her office that she "supports the goal of these bills" but noted they would get a full review.
Some convenience store owners fear the measure could affect their business, by potentially leaving customers uncertain whether the shop carries their favorite brand and making them wait while a proprietor digs out a pack, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience stores.
"It slows down the transaction, and our name is convenience stores," he said.