Capital District Communities Taking Action

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  passed a local law which licenses all tobacco retailers, prohibits the sale of vaping products within 1000 feet of schools and caps and winnows the number of tobacco retailers.

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. In both Albany and Schenectady Counties, the less income you have, the more likely you are to live in a neighborhood inundated with tobacco advertising, marketing and promotion. And THAT matters because the greater your exposure to tobacco advertising, marketing and promotion, the more likely you are to start or continue tobacco use. The graphs to the left illustrate the differences in exposure to tobacco marketing depending on where you live. 

In addition to having more tobacco retailers per capita, neighborhoods with a high percentage of low-income residents and residents of color tend to have:

  • More interior tobacco product advertising
  • Lower prices and more advertising for menthol cigarettes
  • Increased availability of inexpensive flavored cigars and cigarillos
  • Higher smoking rates

For a more comprehensive look at the tobacco marketing landscape in the Capital District, take a look at our Retailer Observation reports.


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.



Community Voices

Perhaps the most compelling information to help fully understand the human impact of tobacco marketing and tobacco use comes from the voices of those who have been directly harmed. Community members often share their own personal stories of the toll that tobacco use has taken on their lives, the lives of those they care about, and their communities more generally. Several of these Capital District residents generously agreed to share their personal stories in a series we call “Community Spotlight.” 

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 black and red location markers. The black 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.

Albany county map

Rensselaer county map

Schenectady county map