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Health & Wellness

Little opposition to proposed new smoking bans in Erie County

Zach Hirsch

There wasn't much opposition Thursday evening to a proposed Erie County law that would further restrict smoking and vaping in vehicles and outdoor spaces.

While those are the usual areas where people are restricted from smoking and vaping, this proposed local law has several major additions.

The Public Health Protection Act of 2018 would bar the sale of tobacco or e-cigarettes in health care institutions and pharmacies. That includes drug stores and health care institutions of any size.

Then there is a restriction on smoking and vaping in and adjacent to bus shelters, which had some Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in Erie County Legislature chambers on Thursday watching.

The law also would make it illegal to smoke or vape in a vehcile with children passengers.

Legislature Chair Peter Savage - who sponsored the measure with legislators John Mills and Patrick Burke - said the legislation has bipartisan support, as well as support from many pharmacies and pharmacists about for banning sales in the health care establishments.

"Many have already begun to do that and what makes this bill different than prior bills introduced is it has leveled the playing field," Savage said. "The Mom and Pop and the big box store are on the same level playing field. If you are just a sole proprietor pharmacy or you are a big box store that has a pharmacy within your four corners, the same rules apply."

Public hearing speaker Destiny Guinee said pharmacy restrictions are a good idea.

"To be able to go to have your asthma prescription filled, while tobacco products are prominently displayed at the front, doesn't make any sense to me," Guinee said. "Smoking is heavily addicting to so many people and these steps will assist in continuing to create tobacco-free environments for everyone."

However, speaker Tony Kunz called it "another needless regulation." Kunz said tobacco isn't all that should be restricted.

"I can see this is a symbolic gesture," Kunz said. "If you can't sell cigarettes in drug stores and pharmacies, how about you get rid of candy too? Refined sugar has its health problems. It can be addictive also. How about those fat products that they sell, whether it's in those Mellow John instant lunches or that sort of thing? Where does it end?"

Savage said the proposal might come up for a vote within weeks, with the budget going to a vote next Thursday, delaying regular Legislature sessions. If passed, the new bans would take effect immediately. There would be a period of education, to make sure everyone understands what the new rules are.