If there’s one thing that can be said about Mayor Bloomberg, it’s that he’s relentless. Fresh off his defeat (this month) by a judge who knocked down his 16-ounce soda limit law (for being “arbitrary and capricious”), the health conscience and tobacco-hating mayor has hit back, proposing a new law to shield kids and young adults (and obviously the rest of us) from being able to see actual tobacco products that are being sold in stores. The stores can keep their advertisements up in plain view; however, the product itself has to be in “concealed locations,” either under the counters or in cabinets or anywhere else that is out-of-range of the naked eye. Bloomberg said this is necessary because “Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity,” and also “they invite young people to experiment with tobacco.” He also explained that the pretty and colorful packaging techniques used on cigarette packs also will tempt kids to smoke.
Mayor Bloomberg may believe that his new law will trick kids and young adults into forgetting that the products really are there, or hard to get (by using the see-no-evil-do-no-evil concept), but I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar his plan will fall flat on it’s face, and here’s a few reasons why.
First off, why hide the product itself, when the advertisements for them are allowed to remain? Ever go into a McDonalds? They have those big, colorful menu displays of high-calorie, sodium-spiking, arterial-clogging and fat-producing food products for sale, hitting you dead in the eye as soon as you walk in. Now even though you can’t see the actual grease-filled, cheese and bacon-topped delights that you know are back there and not good for you, you still buy them, right? You seek them out, and maybe even super-size the order too. So where’s the psychological precedent coming from? Anti-smoking advocates argue that studies show that exposure is a key element to starting an unhealthy habit, like smoking, and they might have a good point there, but has this technique and law ever been tried before? Yes, and it failed.
The first municipality to try it was the small village of Haverstraw, N.Y., population 11,000. The mayor there had the same idea, which was to pass an ordinance prohibiting store owners from displaying tobacco products. It was passed on April 16th, 2012 then quickly rescinded on August 13th, 2012, after the village was sued in Federal court by 7 tobacco companies and the NY Association of Convenience Stores. Their complaint said “the law violates the industry’s free speech-rights.” and that “the village may not paternalistically prevent all adult consumers from viewing lawful products in stores so as to keep them out of the view of children.” The suit never got further then the complaint, because the village backed down after realizing it was fiscally damaging to the village to litigate the lawsuit, and therefore repealed it.
This is not to say that NYC will back down from such a lawsuit, but you can bet all the tobacco companies and all the retail store associations in NYC (of which there are over 10,000) will gather forces and fight the law all the way to the State Supreme Court. Such a law, if passed and allowed to remain, would have a resounding, legal precedent across the entire country, and would bring into question First Amendment rights violations that pertain to free speech and advertising.
Bloomberg’s health crusades have humorously been the butt of countless cartoons, and have even resulted in an “anti-Bloomberg-bill” which was recently passed in Missouri. The bill states that “It is simply not the role of government to micro-regulate citizen’s dietary decisions,” and that “The responsibility for one’s health depends on individual choices about a proper diet and appropriate exercise.” Bloomberg should take some cues from the Missouri law, but what do you expect from a wacky mayor who once had his aides install a room-sized, house air-conditioner, in the passenger side window of his SUV, to cut down on the car’s emissions from letting it idle with the ac on.
Seriously, though, it is only fair to applaud Bloomberg’s health-conscience, saber-rattling, but Bloomberg might do better by re-evaluating his strategy. I already gave up, myself, on hiding my munchies from my 5-year old grandchildren, because they can sniff out a sealed, potato-chip bag from 500-feet away, no matter where or how I camouflage it. When 5-year olds have GPS tracking skills like that, how can Bloomberg expect to outwit a 21-year old? Every parent out there today knows that the more you try to hide something from a kid or a teenager, the more they’re going to pursue it. Bloomberg needs to learn that by concealing, taxing or eliminating by law, what HE personally finds unhealthy or objectionable, is not the way an intelligent-minded mayor is supposed to be, or how a democracy is run.
Joseph E Rathjen is a Freelance Writer ( For Hire) and can be contacted at josephrathjen @ aol.com
“Copyright 2013 Joseph Rathjen – All Rights Reserved”
- Bloomberg Continues Crusade Against Freedom (freebeacon.com)
- [VIDEO] Award-winning actor calls Bloomberg’s nanny-state ‘terrible’ and ‘dangerous’ (redalertpolitics.com)
- New York City aims to ban cigarette sales to those under 21 (bangordailynews.com)