In what is becoming a trend across the state, the city of Syracuse could be the next municipality to require tobacco retailers acquire a city-specific license to sell the products, in addition to a state license.
The common council characterizes the move as part of an effort to cut down on the number of young people smoking.
Stores would need to apply, pay a fee and pass an inspection. Then, if they get approved, do that again every year.
Smoke-free advocates are on board, citing the 28,000 smoking deaths in New York each year.
Michael Glynn has owned Rocky’s Cigars since 1985.
What You Need To Know
- If passed, the bill would create a local tobacco license for retailers in the city of Syracuse
- The cities of Buffalo, Newburgh and the town of Bethlehem have done the same, to name a few
- Retailers would apply, pay a fee and need to pass inspection; if approved, they would reapply annually
“We’ve always been featuring premium cigars and pipe tobaccos. We do a lot with pipe tobaccos over here. Coming around the corner, there’s a lot of premium cigars on display, literally 600 boxes," said Glynn.
The aim of the bill is to cut youth tobacco use, and Glynn said he supports efforts to curb young smokers.
“If our youth in the city are seeing a lot of people smoking, a lot of these advertisements, that impacts them and that carries into their life as well," said Karyn Johnson, program coordinator of Tobacco Free CNY.
Johnson said there’s higher tobacco use in people of color, low socio-economic status, the less education and in the LGBTQ community.
“Addressing where the tobacco retailers are allowed to set up, how close to schools, how close to parks, all of those things make a difference to address some of that health inequity," said Johnson.
Johnson also said higher rates of smoking are occurring in areas with more tobacco retailers.
“I do think the concentration is way too high. We need fewer corner stores, period, especially those that are selling drugs and alcohol," said Jennifer Schultz, District 1 common councilor.
Schultz is against retailers paying another fee to apply for local licenses, but supports distance requirements from schools.
“I see kids getting off school buses at prime stops and going right into the corner store. So, our kids at a very young age are being exposed to all kinds of things in there," said Schultz.
Onondaga County has more than 400 tobacco and vape retailers, and almost half of those are in the city of Syracuse. The bill could set guidelines for distance from schools, public parks and other retailers. Also, it could cap the number of tobacco retailers, and reduce the number of retailers over time.
Code enforcement officers say they have closed more than a dozen illegal dispensaries in the city. If the bill becomes law, anyone not getting a local tobacco license won’t be ignored.
“If they don’t, we will do enforcement to make sure they’re not, they discontinue those sales. And it could include all the way up to closing the business entirely if they don’t come into compliance," said Jake Dishaw, deputy commissioner, code enforcement.
“We’re waiting to see how the vote falls, and we’re hoping the grandfather clauses that are built into the bill will have a positive impact for existing businesses," said Glynn.
The bill is still yet to be voted on by the common council.
Should the council approve the bill, the move would not be unprecedented in the state. The cities of Buffalo, Newburgh and the town of Bethlehem have done the same, to name a few.