The responses of Mr. Calvin and convenience store manager Mohsen Almuflahi to Mayor Bloomberg’s new bill for NYC brings up an interesting point regarding the political health agenda issue. Is “out of sight” really “out of mind”? I would have to agree with Mr. Calvin that it is not the display of the cigarettes that instigates the purchase. According to the CDC, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. So rationally there must be plenty of other factors involved with the conscious purchase of a product that has been proven to be deadly. However, I also believe that the implementation of Mayor Bloomberg’s bill doesn’t inconvenience anybody, “if they want to smoke, they’ll smoke anyways”. There is no actual harm of cigarettes not being on display and this bill has the potential to save a person from a debilitating addiction.
This bill immediately reminds me of the recent bill that imposed restrictions on the size of fountain drink container that could be sold at restaurants and convenience stores. While the intention of this legislation is pure, I think it's very naive to think that these regulations are actually going to change anything in terms of the level of tobacco use.
In addition, making retailers hide tobacco products trots very closely to the line of First Amendment rights to free speech, and through that, the right to advertise products. Besides, tobacco products are required to be displayed behind the counter, which is for the consumer the only product that can't be reached. Writing legislation for this issue is a waste of time, and I think Mayor Bloomberg and the government of New York City could focus their time on more pressing issues.
I believe that Mayor Bloomberg is mistaken with his hopes for the effects of this bill. He believes that if the cigarettes are out of the public's eye then there will be a reduced want or need to smoke. A cigarette addict will not change his/her mind about purchasing another pack of cigarettes simply because the packs are hidden from view. The purchase will still be made just like it has in the past. In addition, I don't believe that this will deter new people, primarily the younger population, from buying their first pack of cigarettes. Cigarettes are a predestined purchase, not an impulse buy, so I believe this bill will do very little to change the overall cigarette or other tobacco sales.
However, I believe that this bill will effect the individual sales of tobacco companies. In present day, there are very few mediums that allow tobacco companies to advertise. The unique packaging is usually seen for the first time on the behind the counter shelf and can be the first time a person is made aware of a new brand, flavor, or feature. This lack of advertising will change the distribution of sales and hurt some tobacco companies while helping others.
I would have to agree with Mr. Calvin that it is not the display of the cigarettes that instigates the purchase. According to the CDC, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
While I am not a smoker or fan of tobacco products, this rule is pretty bogus. Too many people in this country smoke and will continue to buy cigarettes whether they see them on display or not. Similarly, I don't believe that somebody goes into a convenience store and buys cigarettes just because they see them. If the government wants to crack down on smoking they should re-evaluate the legality of cigarettes or research and develop a safer and healthier product.
Mayor Bloomberg is known for trying to pass crazy new rules concerning public health. Some catch on and are adopted by other cities around the country while others are deemed ridiculous. I believe that harmless "nudging" is ok. For example, putting healthy foods at eye level in grocery stores to encourage consumers to buy healthy. However, Bloomberg's new bill is not a nudge, it is outright hard legal paternalism - i.e. the government is using the law to force people to act for their own benefit. Competent consumers should be allowed to make their own decisions regardless of the cost/benefit to their health. John Stuart Mill is turning over in his grave!