A public hearing for a county law that would ban cigarette sales in some stores drew a crowd of mostly anti-tobacco supporters to voice their opinions.
The hearing was held in the Cahill Room of the Harold L. Joyce Albany County Office Building on Wednesday, Sep. 3, in regards to Local Law D, which would prevent any stores containing a licensed pharmacy from selling tobacco products. If passed, the law would go into effect March 1.
Of the nearly 20 people that signed up to speak about the issue, only three opposed the law with many of those in favor of the law working in the health field or as actual pharmacists.
One of the few people who spoke in opposition was Raymond Dansereau, who cited personal liberties as a reason he opposed it. Dansereau said he is not a smoker.
“This legislative action frightens me in that it represents the legislature’s contempt for individuals’ dignity and liberty. What next? No beer sales, no candy sales, no anchovies — they’re high in sodium. In short, I do not want the county executive — excuse me —the county legislature, as my surrogate mother,” said Dansereau.
Dansereau said the citizens of the county were not the children of the legislature or the county executive and were entitled to make their own decisions.
Latham resident Laura Walenhouse argued that since tobacco products are the only products on the market that do not have a prescribed safe level of use they are different than beer or candy.
“There’s no safe level of consumption. I think when we go into this overreach stage, there is a big difference, when there are things that if you take a moderate amount, you are safe. We’re not talking about that,” said Walenhouse.
Many grocery stores that sell tobacco products and also have pharmacies have removed all advertising for tobacco and placed the products in locked cabinets that do not show the product labels. The intent is to prevent children from seeing the labels and becoming curious about the products.
Maston Sansom of Albany said banning tobacco sales altogether is a slippery slope that sets a precedent that may know no limits.
“It’s really a big issue of fairness to treat these stores that act very carefully when selling this legal product in a different way than other stores. Where does it stop? At what point do you go outside the doors of the building?” said Sansom.
Delmar resident Amy Klein said she supports the law and does not believe the civil liberties argument holds up.
“It is the legislature’s responsibility to respond when public health and safety are at risk,” said Amy Klein. “I urge the county executive to not fall prey to thinking that he has to crumble under the fear that people are accusing him of taking an assault on people’s personal freedom when what he would be doing is standing up for the welfare and safety of the people of this county.”
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has until Sept. 10 to make a decision on the bill.