Hiding tobacco in New York?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just can’t help himself. Next on his to-do list: Force retailers to hide tobacco products.

Bloomberg is proposing that stores keep tobacco products hidden away in drawers, cabinets, under the counter or other secret spots, arguing that if the products aren’t seen by impressionable youngsters, perhaps it would help drop the rate of new smokers in the city. Some officials also want to stop shops from accepting cigarette coupons or other discounts on tobacco products.

“Such displays suggest that smoking is a normal activity,” Bloomberg said of tobacco displays and signs in stores.

This is, of course, the man who has also used his position to crack down on giant sugary soft drinks, pushing restaurants to use less salt and eliminating artificial trans fats from restaurant meals. His arbitrary ban on some super-sized soft drinks is currently on hold after a judge struck down the law. The city is appealing the judge’s ruling.

The billionaire mayor/nanny has reportedly given $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts around the world. In announcing the new city tobacco hiding law, Bloomberg pointed to a British study that said simply noticing smoking products on display in stores considerably raised the odds that 11-to-15-year-olds would try smoking.

We’re all for bombarding youth with educational information about the health dangers of smoking and using other tobacco products, but simply hiding the products makes little sense. Tobacco products are legal, and are already placed behind the counter of stores. As always, we also worry about the next step if tobacco is hidden. Will the Krispy Kremes be next? What about candy, ice cream, and other snacks? How long will it be before Bloomberg has everything unhealthy in a store hidden from view?

No, the time to stop that from happening is now. We’d love to see smoking rates among all age groups drop, but hiding legal products is not the right way to accomplish that goal.