Weekly Feature

2014-08-06 / Front Page

Town to recognize discouragement of tobacco use

by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor

A resolution to raise the age limit on tobacco sales from 18 to 21 years old in Amherst was not approved by the Town Board during its meeting on Monday.

(See editorial on page four)

Instead, the Town Board unanimously approved an amendment to the measure, directing the Amherst Youth and Recreation Department, in conjunction with the Amherst Task Force for Healthy Community Healthy Youth and the Amherst Youth Consortium, to create an incentive program for businesses to discourage tobacco use among youths.

Specifically, the passed resolution, which was amended by Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette and supported by Supervisor Barry Weinstein and Council Member Mark Manna, seeks to create incentives for businesses that:

• Do not offer tobacco or tobacco-related products for sale.

• Use a universal identification proofing system if they do offer tobacco or tobacco-related products for sale.

• Do not display advertising for tobacco-related products.

• Offer smoking cessation programs for their employees.

The resolution also states that the incentive program could include plaques of recognition, and the Town Board designated $5,000 from a contingency account to cover the cost of initiating the program.

The original resolution for board consideration was put forth by Council Member Steven Sanders. His resolution sought to direct the town attorney to draft a law regarding tobacco use and sales in the town. Both the amended resolution and initial resolution were titled “Discouraging Tobacco Use by Youth.”

Sanders’ measure sought to:

• Prohibit the sale of tobacco products to people younger than 21 years old.

• Prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products in addition to the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and stores that contain a pharmacy.

• Stop the use of e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is currently prohibited.

• Stop the sale of tobacco products within 1,500 feet of a school.

“I think it is time for the Town of Amherst to follow the lead of other municipalities in New York State to limit the access and appeal of tobacco products to our youth,” Sanders said.

He said the resolution was crafted with the support of the Amherst Tobacco-Free Steering Committee, which is chaired by Dr. Craig Schmidt.

Schmidt and approximately seven other people spoke in support of Sanders’ resolution during the public comment period of the meeting. Approximately 15 people spoke against the measure, with a majority of the speakers opposing the portion of the resolution that mentioned prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products.

Some of the people who spoke out against the resolution said they use electronic or vapor cigarettes. About six speakers said that through using vapors, they were able to quit smoking cigarettes, which contain nicotine. Many vapors have tobacco flavors with no nicotine, but a majority of electronic cigarettes can contain nicotine.

Following the public comment period, Sanders clarified the wording of the resolution, stating that the “flavored tobacco products” portion was meant for products such as snuff or chewing tobacco, not for vapors.

Prior to the vote on the amended resolution, Marlette said raising the age limit to purchase cigarettes would not be effective because at 18 years old people have the capacity to make their own decisions.

“I keep going back to what this resolution is: ‘Discouraging Tobacco Use by Youth,’” he said. “We have to question what is the role of government. The best way to work with our youths is not to replace parenting with legislation.”

Marlette added that the role of government is to provide for the infrastructure of the town and people in the community.

Manna questioned the legality of Sanders’ proposed legislation. Town Attorney Tom Jones said that although there have been specific state court cases that show local municipalities may impose legislation to regulate tobacco sales, a law such as the one Sanders proposed “could set up Amherst as a test case” in a long legal process.

“Many tobacco regulations come from the state level,” Jones said. “I think what you have to ask yourself is this really within the scope of this level of government,” Jones said.

Council Member Ramona Popowich proposed an amendment to Marlette’s amendment that would have still raised the age limit of tobacco sales to 21 years old as well as prohibited the use of electronic cigarettes anyplace smoking is already prohibited.

However, her proposed amendment failed, 2-3, with Marlette, Manna and Weinstein opposing the proposal.

Following the final vote on the amended resolution, Sanders said the problem is that the state and/or county has not yet moved on a measure such as the one he presented.

“Although, I am glad to see that my resolution inspired some action,” he said.

The Town Board’s next meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18, in the Council Chambers at the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.

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