Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tobacco Products Would Have to Be Kept Hidden, According to New Bloomberg Proposal

According to a CNN article, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a law that would require retail stores in New York City that sell tobacco to keep these products hidden; that is, out of sight of customers.

According to the article: "After naming tall sugary drinks Public Enemy No. 1, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday unveiled another public health initiative. This one would force city retailers to keep tobacco products out of sight. But does out of sight necessarily mean out of mind? "Young people are targets of marketing and the availability of cigarettes," said the mayor. The legislation "will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking." ... Under the Tobacco Product Display Restriction bill, sellers would have to keep tobacco products hidden, in cabinets, under the counter or behind a curtain, except during a purchase by an adult or during restocking. If it passes, New York would become the nation's first city to enact such a law, Bloomberg said. The mayor said the city is trying to dissuade customers from viewing cigarettes as 'normal.'"

The Rest of the Story

If tobacco products are kept hidden, then the question naturally arises: how would customers find the cigarettes?

There are a number of possibilities.

First, customers could be provided with a sort of treasure hunt, with a series of clues that eventually lead to the hidden location. The beauty of this model is that the clue cards could each contain a graphic warning label showing smoking's health effects, thus nullifying the effect of the court decision which overturned placing such labels on the pack itself. In order to find the pack, the potential customer would have to make her way through dozens of clues, each with its own graphic warning. Most customers would have trouble making it past the 3rd or 4th clue card.

A second possibility is that customers could be provided with basic orienteering equipment, including a map and compass. Using directional cues and with proper use of the equipment, the customer would gradually hone in on the precise location of the desired merchandise, assuming that climate conditions are favorable and unexpected wind, high ventilation, and magnetic interference are kept to a minimum.

A third possibility involves a version of the game "20 Questions." The customer would have 20 questions to ask the retail clerk, within which he would have to figure out the location of the merchandise. The hitch, of course, is that only "yes" and "no" questions could be asked.

Then there is the Lifeline version of in-store retail tobacco product seeking. The customer can either be given two options where the cigarettes are (one correct and one incorrect), be allowed to phone a friend, or be allowed to poll the customers inside the store. The North Atlantic Convenience Store Association is apparently strongly against this proposal, as it would  be costly to equip convenience stores with the necessary audience response technology.

A fifth possibility is that the cigarettes could be kept in special boxes that are only visible with the specialty 3-D Viewing Glass system. Only customers ages 21 and older would be provided with these special glasses.

Finally, there is the old fashioned "Hide and Seek" free-for-all. This possibility has inventory and floor managers jittery. To help keep things under control, customers would only be allowed to seek during the "Green Light" condition. When "Red Light" is called, customers would have to freeze. Any customer caught moving would be sent back to the beginning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a four year ecig and snus user andformer smoker of two decades. I am usually in agreement about silly over reaching regulations about cigarettes. However I live in the UK where this has been the norm in large supermarkets for awhile and will be the new rule for small convenience stores soon.
really not an issue. Cigarettes are always where they have been, behind the salesperson at the front cash register. Except now they are behind an opaque cabinet door that has a small sign about keeping cigarettes out of view. It is not a problem for anyone wishing to find and buy them except that you cannot see immediately what is in stock and it adds sixty seconds or so to each transaction.

It is a proposal I could really get behind if it included putting ecigs, snus, and other THR products on open display. Then there would be both a carrot and stick side to an effort to nudge people to a new normal.

I don't like stigmatising or punishing smokers. But stigmatising cigarettes as obsolete seems ok. If there is a viable alternative.