Madison County considers banning tobacco displays. Will it make a difference?

Health officials in Madison County are considering a proposal that would ban displays of tobacco products in stores that are open to minors. That would mean stores would have to cover cigarette products with an item like a blanket or keep them somewhere that is out of sight.

Eric Faisst, the Director of Public Health in Madison County, says the county would be the first in Central New York, and possibly the first in the country, to enact such a ban. There have been similar bans in other countries.

Faisst says he believes a tobacco display ban is necessary because tobacco companies often target young people with their advertising. The hope is, if the products are out of sight, they will also be out of mind for teens.

"The tobacco companies are targeting them," says Faisst. "They intentionally are targeting youth because they know if they can get them started early, they will be regular customers for the rest of their life."

Statistics show tobacco addiction often starts in childhood. Nearly 90% of regular smokers say they started smoking before age 18.

Faisst also says, when the bans were put in place in other countries, they did not affect the sales of the products.

We spoke to workers at several convenience stores in Madison County. While most said they wouldn't mind complying with the ban, some also raised concerns that it could be difficult if they had to constantly go behind a curtain or to a back room to get cigarettes for customers.

"It would be almost impossible," says Jill DeKing, who works at XtraMart in Cazenovia. "With us, as many cigarettes as we sell, we'd be lifting it up, putting it back down. It would just be a big inconvenience."

Faisst says the proposal is still in its early stages. Madison County officials will meet with local convenience store workers to get their input within the next few months. Then, the proposal will go before the county legislature, and public hearings will be held. If it's approved, the ban will likely go into place in Spring of 2013.