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Albany Co. Legislature voting on pharmacy tobacco sale ban


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UPDATE: The Albany County Legislature voted 26 to 11, in favor of banning the sale of tobacco and nicotine products in county pharmacies, including some grocery stores.

They found that tobacco products, liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that present a public health risk.

Penalties include a $50 fine for the first violation, and a $200-$500 fine for each additional one.

ALBANY (WRGB) - Albany County lawmakers will consider a measure Monday evening that would ban the sale of tobacco and nicotine products in pharmacies in the county. A similar ban was passed in 2014, but was vetoed by County Executive Dan McCoy. At the time he said he was concerned about legal flaws in the legislation, like the lack of an enforcing agency. He also said that he felt the measure would just redirect sales to stores that don’t have pharmacies.

Albany County Legislator Paul Miller has introduced the proposed ban again, and said the County Executive’s concerns are now addressed.

“We added an enforcement provision into it, and also there have been several other places that have passed it since that point in time,” said Legislator Miller, a Democrat, citing recent measures passed in Rockland County and New York City.

He said the goal is to reduce the number of young people who start using tobacco and nicotine products.

“We aren’t outlawing tobacco in the county, but we are saying that we want to reduce the number of people that get addicted to cigarettes and nicotine,” he said.

In and around the Capital Region tobacco products have been coming off some shelves. CVS, independent pharmacies and some grocery stores are already not selling the products. Julie Hart is the New York Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. She said that even more change is needed.

“There are still numerous pharmacies selling tobacco products and that’s a problem. The more kids see tobacco products, the more exposure they have, the more socially acceptable it is to have tobacco products,” said Hart.

The Cancer Action Network supports the proposal being considered Monday evening.

“Pharmacies are a place people go to for trusted healthcare so tobacco and pharmacies just simply don’t mix,” she said.

If the ban is enacted, it would also effect grocery stores like Price Chopper and Market 32 that have pharmacies in them. Company spokesperson Mona Golub told CBS6 News that stores already cover up tobacco displays, and forgo tobacco advertisements, in an effort to not entice the next generation of smokers. She said that as stores are converted to Market 32 locations, tobacco is being removed. However, she said that tobacco is still legal and adults have the right to purchase it. She said that legislation like this will just move sales away from responsible grocery store sellers to other retailers where advertising is visible.

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CBS6 News spoke with the County Executive’s Office Monday and was told that the County Executive will need to see the legislation in its final form before he can make any decisions about whether or not to support it. His office said that even though something is proposed, it could always change before a final vote.

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