‘Hiding the Smokes’ OK

In reading a recent editorial in the New York Times titled “Hiding the Smokes,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose anti-smoking policies have cut smoking rates substantially in New York City, now wants to ban open displays of cigarettes or tobacco in stores. It is hard to know whether hiding the products would really work to discourage smoking, but what would be the worst thing that could happen if we did? We are visual beings; we are influenced by what we see and advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry. They have proven data to show that what they do works on us to get us to like and buy a product. Tobacco is a product that advertises. And even though there are regulations and laws about how and where they can advertise, they still do it, spend millions to do it, and just do it a little differently, but oh so effectively.

Next time you’re in a store that sells tobacco, really look at the displays, ads, and the “power wall” of product (as it’s called). If that isn’t one form direct advertising, I don’t know what is.

Tobacco displays take away parents’ choice about whether they want their kids exposed to tobacco marketing or not. People can talk about individual responsibility all they want, but parents can’t be everywhere, everytime a pre-teen or teenager enters a convenience store on their way to school.

Tobacco marketing is out of proportion, in comparison with other retail products. The space a store donates for tobacco sales are usually huge and in an unavoidable spot in the store. Did you know that the average tobacco display in New York state is 32 square feet? Really take a look around the store or pharmacy you’re in the next time your out and see if tobacco products are being sold there? If so, then really stop and look to see what is bigger than the power wall of tobacco product in that store? You won’t find much that is bigger, if anything.

Oh, and by the way, the editorial board of the New York Times concluded that the display ban for tobacco product is “worth a try.”

For more information, visit www.realitycheckofny.com.

DENISE BENTON, Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties