Deli Workers Have Some Choice Words for Mayor Bloomberg’s New Cigarette Proposal

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A New York State anti-smoking ad. Photo: tobaccofreenys.org

Mayor Bloomberg's latest attempt to force New Yorkers to be healthy, announced this morning, is a proposal that would force merchants to keep tobacco products completely out of view of the customer — either behind a curtain, in a cabinet, beneath the counter, or perhaps under a loose floorboard. The purpose, according to Bloomberg, is to cut down on underage smoking. We took a walk around the neighborhood this afternoon to get a read on how bodega and deli managers were reacting to the news, and guess what: They're not pleased.

"It's stupid. He needs to fuck off," Fernando, the manager at M&M Market Deli on Broome Street, said. "You want to smoke, you're going to smoke no matter what. And especially at that young age, you're curious about everything."

It was the principle of the thing that so irritated Fernando more than any potential loss of business.

"You don't make money on cigarettes," he said. "I mean, our profit on cigarettes is 75 cents, a dollar? The whole purpose of cigarettes is to get people in — you want to buy cigarettes, then you also pick up a sandwich."

Over at the Thompson Finest Deli, manager Ali was more concerned about his bottom line ("How do you expect anybody to make a buck?"), but he was just as skeptical of the law's potential effects.

"I think it's a real dumb thing to do. Kids? We check everybody's I.D. We make sure we don't sell to minors because we don't want tickets," Ali told us. "There's enough laws and rules going on. There's no need for us to hide cigarettes."

Behind the counter at Grand Street Deli, Keila agreed that the proposal was futile. 

"Bloomberg needs to get something better to do," she said. "It's not going to help. They go home and they see their mom and their father smoke, what's the point of me hiding the cigarettes? It doesn't make any sense to me — any sense. [Bloomberg]'s just, like, going nuts."

Opposition to the new proposal wasn't entirely universal, however.

"Very good idea," said Maria at the Just Delicious deli on Varick Street. "For me, I don't like cigarettes, because it's not good for the kids."