Despite vocal support for Local Law D at a recent public hearing, on Wednesday, Sept. 10, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy vetoed the legislation that would ban tobacco sales in pharmacies in Albany County.
McCoy said in a statement that the reason for the veto was because it would be unenforcable. Instead, he has presented an executive order to the legislature that would ban the display of tobacco products in pharmacies and in retail stores with pharmacies.
“I applaud all efforts that reduce the effects of smoking, especially among the young,” said McCoy in explain his veto. “I cannot, however, support Local Law D. There are numerous legal defects, among them that Local Law D lacks an enforcing agency, lacks a collection procedure for fines and lacks the prerequisite licensing law that would allow Albany County to regulate cigarette sales.”
Adopted by the Albany County Legislature on Aug. 11, the law would have allowed the county to prohibit the sale of tobacco products in licensed health care institutions, pharmacies and retail establishments containing a pharmacy.
Albany Legislator Tim Nichols, D-Latham, said he was disappointed by the veto.
“This veto is a huge win for Big Tobacco and a crushing blow to public health, future tobacco control efforts and to our kids,” said Nichols.
At the public hearing Wednesday, Sept. 3, Nichols argued that tobacco should not be treated the same as some of the other “vices” that cause health problems because, with things such as candy or alcohol, a limited or responsible use will not cause health problems. There is no accepted safe amount of tobacco.
In McCoy’s statement, he said that banning tobacco sales in certain establishments will not stop people from smoking.
“Each of us will make choices on where to shop based upon the values we hold important. Even without this law, nothing stops doctors and consumers from having prescriptions filled only at cigarette-free pharmacies. Nothing stops people from not patronizing stores that sell cigarettes,” said McCoy.
Nichols said the mission of pharmacies to help sick people doesn’t fit well with tobacco sales.
“It doesn’t make sense to have tobacco sold at these places. Covering up the products doesn’t cover up the contradiction of selling the products at a place people go for health care,” said Nichols.
While McCoy did stop short of dictating what stores are allowed to sell tobacco products, he did recommend that stores with pharmacies voluntarily stop selling the products, as pharmacy giant CVS did recently.
“I applaud CVS’s decision to voluntarily remove tobacco products from its stores. In fact, I urge all stores that have a pharmacy to voluntarily ban the sale of cigarettes. I also urge all stores that sell cigarettes to restrict the display and placement of cigarettes so that they are not in view of minors,” said McCoy.
The legislation McCoy presented in the place of Local Law D directs the county attorney to prepare legislation that would include a ban on the display of tobacco products in pharmacies and in retail stores with pharmacies.
While many grocery stores cover up tobacco products voluntarily, Nichols questioned the legality of that legislation saying it is unconstitutional and hasn’t worked before.
“My understanding is that New York City tried to do this in the last couple years ,and the city was sued and the legislation was thrown out. Advertising is protected under the first amendment,” said Nichols.
Nichols vowed to continue his fight against tobacco in Albany by continuing to support laws similar to Local Law D and other tobacco control initiatives.