AUBURN | When it comes to tobacco, the Cayuga County Legislature shares a common opinion: children and tobacco should not mix.

And during its full monthly meeting Tuesday evening, the Legislature took its first swing at its professed mission to keep tobacco products out of the hands of Cayuga County's youth.

Legislators unanimously voted to approve a law seeking to require Cayuga County retailers to obtain a license to sell tobacco products.

A mix of educators, medical practitioners and students spoke during the law's public hearing — all asking the Legislature to pass the proposed licensing legislation.

Matthew Jones, a senior at Auburn High School, encouraged legislators to also approve a law that would limit his peers' exposure to tobacco products and pro-tobacco advertising.

"You now have the power before you to make changes in our community to protect us youth and young people from the tobacco industry," he said.

Speaking before the law was put to a vote, Legislator Pat Mahunik, D-Auburn, explained that the carefully crafted bipartisan law targeted retailers who sell tobacco products to minors.

"If the retailers are responsible and doing the right thing, it will have no effect on them," he said. "It should only hinder the youth."

Although the Legislature unanimously voted in favor of the law, legislators still raised a variety of concerns.

Legislator Dave Axton, R-Port Byron, said that although he supported the legislation, he feared that the law would give stores on the Cayuga Nation's land an unfair advantage.

"What I'm worried about is how this affects Lakeside Trading, and how it may be a positive for them," he said.

Legislator Mark Farrell, D-Weedsport, said that if legislators were "sincere" about limiting youth exposure to tobacco marketing, they would make the law stronger.

To give the legislation more of a bite, Farrell proposed a resolution to reinstate a recently redacted portion of the law restricting the number of tobacco licenses the county could issue every year.

Without that portion, he argued it would be hard to limit children's exposure.

"The part that was taken out of this ... that was a lot of teeth," Farrell said.

Mahunik disagreed with Farrell's proposal, stating that the proposed provision would increase the county's exposure to lawsuits — something Legislator Hans Pecher, C-Genoa, said he and Mahunik took great pains to limit.

"I think think what Mark is proposing would put us right back on the bulls-eye," Pecher said.

Farrell's proposed amendment was defeated 12-3. Legislators Cynthia Aikman, D-Auburn, Michael Didio, R-Auburn, and Farrell voted in favor.

At the close of their spirited discussion, the Legislature unanimously passed the law, requiring retailers to obtain free licenses to sell tobacco.

The vote, however, does not mark the end of the Legislature's battle to keep tobacco products out of the hands of Cayuga County's youth.

Although other proposed laws seeking to regulate the sale of tobacco and prohibit its use among minors were previously pulled by legislative committees, Mahunik said legislators will not abandon the resolutions.

"I see this as one step of many," he said.

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or samantha.house@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @Citizen_House.

(4) comments

Anya

This is ridiculous. The law already requires people be at least 18 years of age to purchase tobacco products. Now because of a couple whiners the legislature is making it more difficult for retailers to do business. Yeah, the licenses are free...now. But it's another hoop to jump through and it opens the door to start charging for them. (More funds for the gov't to misappropriate.) It is up to parents to educate their kids on the dangers and to keep these products out of their hands. And they can't do that while holding a cigarette themselves. Yes, you have the right to a smoke free environment. But I also have the right to smoke if I choose to and that right should not be made more difficult to exercise because you're too lazy to teach your kids responsibility &/or know what they're doing.

showpeople

Oh sure. Pass another useless law. We already have laws on the books that are well enforced on this issue. Lets be clear here. The only ones hurt will be the small retailer who sells tobacco products. First the licenses with the State are not free. They are $300 per year. Secondly, stores are checked regularly by the State to make sure of compliance which entails keeping the products out of the reach of everyone and most of the time, non-visable. Young people hired by the State to attempt to purchase are a common thing. Small store owners already have to jump through hoops to open their establishment with a bevy of required licenses. Is this America? Obviously time to vote out those that are currently in the county legislature. Bye, bye.

Whobawhat

What a useless waste of time!

fullytaxed

Another feel good useless law. And you wonder why people go to union springs to by Indian brand cigarettes. There are ample laws on the books now that cover those concerns already.

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