But the youth rate has remained flat, at 8.5 percent, since 2007. Some 28,000 city public high school students tried smoking for the first time in 2011, city officials say.
Measures in other countries have been coupled with bars on in-store advertising, but those nations have different legal standards around advertising and free speech. The New York proposal would still allow shops to display cigarette advertising and signs saying tobacco products were sold, raising the question of how effective it will be just to put the products under wraps.
But convenience store owners fear it could affect their business, by potentially leaving customers uncertain whether the shop carries their favorite brand and making them wait while a proprietor digs out a pack, said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience stores.
"It slows down the transaction, and our name is convenience stores," he said.
Jay Kim, who owns a Manhattan deli on 34th Street, saw the proposal as a bid to net fines.
"I know the city wants to collect money," he said at his store, where packs of cigarettes can be seen behind the counter, along with numerous signs warning of the dangers of smoking and prohibiting sales to minors.
Bloomberg, for his part, emphasized that collecting money was "not the reason."
The displays would be checked as part of the shops' normal city inspections; information on the potential penalties wasn't immediately available Monday night. Repeated violations of some of the other provisions, including the minimum-price and coupon ban, could get a store shuttered.
Stores that make more than half their revenue from tobacco products would be exempt from the display ban. Customers under 18, the legal age for buying cigarettes in New York, are barred from such stores without parents.
While the federal government regulates tobacco, states have some say in rules surrounding how it's sold.
Several of New York City's smoking regulations have survived court challenges. But a federal appeals court said last year that the city couldn't force tobacco retailers to display gruesome images of diseased lungs and decaying teeth. In that case, the court ruled that the federal government gets to decide how to warn people about the dangers of smoking.
The nation's largest tobacco company said the latest proposal also was too much.
"To the extent that this proposed law would ban the display of products to adult tobacco consumers, we believe it goes too far," said David Sutton, a spokesman for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA, which makes the top-selling Marlboro brand. The company supported federal legislation that in 2009 gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products, which includes various retail restrictions, Sutton noted.
New York City smokers already face some of the highest cigarette prices in the country. With city and state taxes totaling $5.85 a pack, it's not uncommon for a pack to cost $13 or more in Manhattan. The proposed minimum price is $10.50, including taxes; city officials said it was aimed largely at clamping down on sales of smuggled and untaxed cigarettes.
Other public health measures Bloomberg has championed include pressuring restaurants to use less salt and add calorie counts to menus, and banning artificial trans fats from restaurant meals.
Jennifer Bailey, smoking as she waited for a bus on 34th Street, was no fan of the proposed tobacco restrictions or Bloomberg's other public health initiatives.
"It's like New York has become a ... dictatorship," she said.
Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela in New York and Michael Felberbaum in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.
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