Dear Members of the Town Board,
On Sunday, August 7 I was provided a copy of the proposed Town Code 454 by Supervisor Feiner and subsequently shared it with the Edgemont Community Council Smoke Shop Advocacy Working Group. While the ECC appreciates the efforts to take action against smoke shops near schools prior to the start of the school year, upon review we have the following concerns about the narrow scope of the proposed law:
1. While the intention of proposed Town Code §454-4, based on its title, is to regulate both the advertising and physical display of tobacco products and smoking paraphernalia, the language is unclear and could be read to regulate only “nicotine advertisements” and not regulate the physical display of tobacco products and smoking paraphernalia. This key provision barring the display and advertising of such products within 1,500 feet of a school does not make clear that both the physical display and the advertising of such products in store fronts, exterior windows, and entry doors is prohibited.
2. This law would only regulate store fronts, exterior windows, and any door which is used for entry. If the intent of this law is to “mitigate the marketing and sale to youth by regulating the public display of tobacco products and electronic cigarette advertisements and smoking paraphernalia”, it would be more effective to regulate the display of these items from being visible from the sidewalk or street. If this law is adopted as is, children walking our streets will still easily be able to see products and paraphernalia inside businesses if only store fronts, exterior windows, and entry doors are regulated.
3. This law would only regulate distance from schools, not public parks. Children, which this law is intended to protect, spend considerable time in public parks. Other locations where children spend considerable time include playgrounds, day-care centers, and houses of worship. These locations should be included as well for the maximum protection of our community’s children.
4. This law would only regulate the public display of tobacco products and electronic cigarette advertisements and smoking paraphernalia, not the sale of the products themselves. The ECC stands firm in its request for the town to restrict the sale of tobacco products, marijuana, and weapons within 1,500 feet of schools and public parks. To keep the children in our community as safe as possible, the sale of these products should be restricted – not just their marketing and display.
5. This law would only be enforceable by the Building Department, not the Police Department. Why is it that we would limit the potential enforcement agencies? While the Building Department is only open during normal business hours, the Police Department operates 24/7/365 and is well positioned to take action on violations of this law.
Additionally, based on the advice of Linda Richter, the Vice President of Prevention Research and Analysis at Partnership to End Addition, who is an Edgemont resident and a member of the ECC Working Group, we have concerns about the following definitions:
- ADVERTISEMENT – This definition is problematic as it applies only to products authorized to be sold by the FDA (which are the ones that would be required to carry the health warning), but there are hundreds of products that are currently in regulatory limbo since they are awaiting FDA review or haven’t yet applied for FDA authorization, that can technically still be sold, and would be unlikely to voluntarily carry a health warning.
- ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE OR E-CIGARETTE – To be more comprehensive this should be updated to include vapor/aerosol. Technically, electronic cigarette smoke is not a vapor (which implies it’s primarily water), but an aerosol. The research/policy field is careful to use the term “aerosol” for that reason since it means there’s a lot more in it than just water vapor (i.e., toxic heavy metals, ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds, flavoring chemicals, etc.). We wouldn’t want this to be used as a technical loophole.
- TOBACCO PRODUCT – To be more comprehensive this list should specifically include synthetic nicotine-based oral products that are becoming increasingly popular with children – gum, lozenges, gummies, and tablets. The industry has been arguing that these aren’t tobacco products because the nicotine is synthetic and not from the tobacco plant. But the federal government just ruled that they are to be considered tobacco products and fall under FDA authority.
For these reasons, the ECC has serious reservations and respectfully requests that the Town Board adjourn the public hearing scheduled for August 10, withdraw the current draft and schedule a new public hearing as soon as possible after the proposed Chapter 454 has been redrafted to address the above issues and concerns. While we were eager to have this addressed before the start of the school year, what is most important is adopting the strongest law possible.
We would appreciate, as a courtesy in working constructively together, that drafts of the revision be shared with the ECC, so that we do not see the draft only after a public hearing has been scheduled, further delaying action on this matter.
We also note that the proposed Town Code 454 does not address all the issues at the center of the ECC’s concerns, specifically regulating the sale, display, and advertising of marijuana/tobacco/paraphernalia and guns/knives/weapons within 1,500 feet of schools and public parks. For those reasons, the adoption of Chapter 454, even if revised, is not a substitute for additional laws that address all these issues.
Thank you for your consideration,
Dylan F. Pyne
President, The Edgemont Community Council