Strong support for tobacco restrictions at Ulster County hearing

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Scarpino:  “It is critically
important …”

Hoppenstadt – 34% of his
store’s revenue

KINGSTON – A large crowd turned out for a public hearing Tuesday night, on a local law designed to curb exposure of minors to cigarette addiction. The Ulster County law would ban tobacco retailers from operating within 1000 feet of a school.
The law contains a grandfather clause which allows existing businesses to keep their location.  Every retailer, however, must reapply for a new license as of January 1, 2016.
“It is critically important that we prevent our youth from becoming addicted smokers,” said County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith.  “Smoking is a preventable epidemic; it is an addiction that leaves illness and death in its wake.”
Vincent Martello, the county’s director of community health relations agreed.
“The real issue is, why in the world would we want to continue to subject our young people to the onslaught of tobacco marketing – $2.5 million a day targeted at them. If our children were in harm’s way for any similar situation, we would not hesitate to act,” Martello said.
David Scarpino, CEO of the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, also supported the measure.
“We are going to be spending money to keep people healthy,” Scarpino said. “So, for every child that we can prevent starting smoking, that’s one less dollar that we’re going to spend trying to get them to stop. By having government and health care working collaboratively to stop this epidemic is really crucial. These are valuable tax dollars which can go elsewhere.”
Tobacco is big business in Ulster County. Jim Hoppenstedt of the Plattekill Corners General Store told legislators that tobacco sales account for 34 percent of his revenue stream in 2014.
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, pointed to what he said were discrepancies in statistical data cited by the bill, which claims 20 percent of underage smokers obtain their tobacco from retail stores, despite a one percent failure rate in age enforcement for Ulster County – one-fifth of the state’s average of five percent.
Calvin argued that the law does not address the 80 percent of minors who get their cigarettes elsewhere.
“Why isn’t there a local law on your desk that makes it illegal for minors to possess tobacco?” Calvin asked.