- What is being discussed?
All stores that sell tobacco products and/or smoking paraphernalia (i) would be required to obtain a license from the City of Ithaca authorizing them to sell these products.
- What is the justification for focusing on tobacco retailers and retail sales in the City? What objective are we trying to address?
Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death.
Billions of tax and Medicaid dollars are spent on tobacco-caused disease and disability. Everyone pays.
Nearly all (90%) adult smokers began by age 18. Youth who refrain from tobacco use are unlikely to become tobacco users as adults. Preventing youth initiation can pave the way for important declines in adult tobacco use and associated costs.
The March 2012 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General clearly identifies in-store tobacco marketing as a primary cause of youth tobacco use. Large, colorful displays portray tobacco use as an accessible and acceptable social norm.
Thus, all public policy-makers, including the City, have an interest in reducing youth exposure to tobacco in stores.
- How does the proposed licensing link to the City’s interest in reducing youth smoking and tobacco use?
The NYS Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA) prohibits the sale of tobacco products or smoking paraphernalia to youth under age 18. (ii)
A local license is a step to better assure compliance with ATUPA, and hold tobacco retailers more responsible for youth sales.
Research shows that the location and density of tobacco retailers significantly affects the chance youth will begin to smoke. Licensing provides a means to reduce over time the number of tobacco retailers, manage proximity of tobacco retailers to youth activities (schools, community centers), and in other ways reduce youth access and exposure to tobacco products.
- What is the Head Shop connection?
In the Fall 2011, concerns were raised by the Substance Abuse Subcommittee and the DIA about the increasing exposure of, and retail access to smoking paraphernalia in downtown Ithaca. Sale of smoking paraphernalia became part of ATUPA regulations in January 2012.
- Why this legislation is being proposed at this time?
The NYS Tobacco Control Program (NYTCP) is working to reduce youth access and exposure to tobacco products through public policy and legislation. Every NYS county has a NYTCP-funded program like Tobacco Free Tompkins that is engaged in community and government education efforts toward this objective. Local licensing is one strategy that is currently being discussed in a number of NYS counties.
These efforts are compatible with concerns raised last fall by the Subcommittee and the DIA, and provide a natural collaborative opportunity for the DIA and Tobacco Free Tompkins.
- Aren’t tobacco retailers already licensed?
Yes, NYS Department of Tax & Finance certification authorizes the collection of tobacco excise taxes.
- Do we have a right to require that merchants obtain an additional license?
Yes, the City is legally allowed to establish a licensing requirement on businesses within its jurisdiction, even when the businesses are already licensed by a state agency.
- Are paraphernalia retailers licensed?
- Does this go too far in terms of limiting the actual sale of things that are legal?
No. The proposal does not go any farther than current licensing laws that limit the sale of alcohol, a legal product for persons over age 21. Like alcohol, the things are legal, but their sale to underage persons is not.
- Where else is this done?
In NYS, Dutchess County currently requires a separate license for tobacco retailers.
- What products would be involved?
All “age restricted” products addressed by ATUPA, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, herbal cigarettes, shisha, rolling papers, smoking paraphernalia such as water pipes and hookahs, electronic cigarettes. (iii)
- What type of shops would be involved?
Any grocery store, convenience store, gas station, tobacco shop, or head shops that sells products listed under ATUPA.
- How much would a license cost?
The cost is best determined by a full accounting for the cost of administering and enforcing the licensing program. Typically, licensing programs should be revenue neutral.
- How many state-certified tobacco retailers are located in the City? Within the BID?
By the most recently available list,
7 in the BID,
29 total in the City.
- Who would enforce the licensing ordinance, to make sure a store had a license and was compliant?
The Tompkins County Health Department, Environmental Health Division (EH) currently inspects all state certified tobacco retailers twice a year to ensure compliance with ATUPA. It is possible that a formal agreement could be reached with EH to monitor City licensing requirements at the same time.
Compliance with the state Clean Indoor Air Act is complaint driven, a model that could also work for this proposal.
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NYS Public Health Law §1399-cc specifies the following be posted at certified stores:
"SALE OF CIGARETTES, CIGARS, CHEWING TOBACCO, POWDERED TOBACCO, SHISHA OR OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS, HERBAL CIGARETTES, ROLLING PAPERS OR SMOKING PARAPHERNALIA, TO PERSONS UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE IS PROHIBITED BY LAW."