Bloomberg tobacco initiative slammed by N.Y. convenience stores

Cigarette packs are displayed at a convenience store in New York, Monday, March 18, 2013.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

(CBS News) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is launching a new health offensive. Bloomberg hopes to make New York the first city in the country to ban in-store cigarette displays. Similar bans have already been implemented in Canada, Australia and parts of Europe. But New York would be the first city in the U.S. to implement a ban.

NYC mayor's next health proposal: Keep tobacco out of sight in stores

The Bloomberg administration says children who are frequently exposed to tobacco product displays are two-and-a-half times more likely to start smoking. Bloomberg has said, "Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity and they invite young people to experiment with tobacco."

Cigarettes would be hidden from view, though in-store cigarette ads would not. The city would also have the power to close stores repeatedly caught selling smuggled cigarettes.

"This is a big thing," Bloomberg said. "Make no mistake."

The proposals were immediately criticized by the New York Association of Convenience Stores. "The notion of forcing licensed, tax-collecting, law-abiding retailers to hide their tobacco inventory is patently absurd," the group said. "Seeing beer in a beverage center doesn't make (kids) start drinking, seeing lottery tickets in a bodega doesn't make them start gambling, seeing condoms in a pharmacy doesn't make them engage in premarital sex, but that cigarette rack apparently has telepathic powers."

Fred Mogul, health care and medicine reporter for the New York radio station WNYC, said, "Obviously Mayor Bloomberg has ruffled a lot of feathers. A lot of people are concerned -- is this a role that the government has to play?"

Mogul says the mayor has turned New York City into an incubator for novel public health initiatives. Some have been implemented, like mandating calorie counts on menus and prohibiting smoking in many public places. Others, like the recently overturned ban on large sugary drinks, have not.

Mogul said, "People in public health that I've talked to are concerned that this golden age for them might be coming to an end, that whatever follows Mayor Bloomberg will be very tough to replicate, to put it mildly."

The adult smoking rate in the city is down from 21.5 percent in 2002, to 14.8 percent in 2011. The latest anti-smoking measures will have to be passed by the city council in order to become law -- something that wasn't done with the jumbo soda ban.

For Jeff Glor's full report, watch the video above.