Tobacco use has surely been on the decline, and yet it remains a leading cause of preventable death in our country and in New York City. A large majority – about 80 percent – of smokers began before the age of 21. Reducing youth smoking rates could be as easy as removing tobacco displays from stores. Research has shown that the more tobacco advertising youth encounter, the more likely they are to experiment with and start using tobacco products.
Tobacco product displays also normalize smoking and prompt impulse buys, especially among youth. Studies show that youth who shop two or more times a week at stores that openly display cigarettes are more likely to start smoking. A March 2013 report released by the NYC Health Department shows that of 2000 tobacco retailers surveyed, 80 percent of them devote the majority of the area behind the checkout counter to tobacco displays.
We shouldn’t have to shield our children’s eyes upon entering a neighborhood store to protect them from Big Tobacco. By removing the ability to display tobacco products, stores will no longer be aiding and abetting the recruitment of young smokers through tobacco product displays. Stores should still be able to communicate that they carry such products, but they should be kept behind the counter and out of sight. We support prohibiting stores from displaying tobacco products in plain sight. After all, we are only protecting our children’s health, not the stores’ bottom line!