New York State has earned its place as a national leader in public health with the passage of landmark comprehensive tobacco control laws. Municipalities across the state have also exercised their authority to implement additional local restrictions on the number, type and location of tobacco outlets as well as the availability of flavored products and the use of tobacco coupons and discounts.
Here in the Capital District:
- Albany and Schenectady Counties raised the minimum age for the legal sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21. A total of 14 NYS counties and New York City raised the age prior to it becoming NYS Law.
- Albany County prohibited the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and stores that contain a pharmacy. A total of four NYS counties and New York City implemented this prohibition prior to it becoming NYS law.
- The Town of Niskayuna restricted land use for tobacco retail sales to locations at least 1,000 feet from schools.
- The Town of Bethlehem is currently considering a local licensing system for tobacco and vape retailers and setting a limit on the number of retailers that can sell those products.
Assistance is available to New York State localities in identifying evidence-based policy solutions that address specific community needs.
Identifying Local Needs
Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities collects data through tobacco retailer observations, telephone surveys, community conversations, and mapping to help determine what communities are at highest risk of exposure to tobacco marketing and to tobacco use in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties. The consistent finding is that neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income residents or residents of color tend to have:
- More tobacco retailers per capita
- More interior tobacco product advertising
- Lower prices and more advertising for menthol cigarettes
- Increased availability of inexpensive flavored cigars and cigarillos
- Higher smoking rates
Addressing Tobacco Use Health Inequities in the City of Albany, released in 2017, highlights the striking disparities in tobacco use and marketing in low-income neighborhoods in the City of Albany. The report exposes tobacco marketing as a primary reason that low-income people smoke at higher rates and suffer more severe health consequences than their higher-income counterparts.
Addressing Tobacco Use Health Inequities in the County of Schenectady, released in 2020, showed disparities in the tobacco marketing in low-income as compared to higher-income neighborhoods, similar to those found in the City of Albany.
Data collection was underway in the Cities of Troy and Rensselaer but was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Preliminary data suggests a similar pattern of disproportionate presence of tobacco retailers and tobacco marketing in low-income communities.
Tobacco Retailer Mapping
You can visit interactive online maps of Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties that show the locations of tobacco retailers, vape shops, schools, parks and libraries. The maps represent the most current information available.
You’ll notice that tobacco retailers are indicated by both green and red location markers. The green location markers indicate tobacco retailers that were visited as part of the data collection process. By clicking on those markers, you can view photos of the interior and exterior of those stores.