Jun 30, 2023

» Gloversville issues 6

FILE — A look at Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022.

GLOVERSVILLE — No additional head shops can open up in Gloversville until February.

City lawmakers have issued a six-month pause on building permits for retailers interested in selling a high volume of smoking and vaping supplies. It began Tuesday.

The goal is to potentially flesh out new regulations aimed at distancing vice products from minors. Any proposal would require review from city and Fulton County planning officials.

“We want [smoke shops] to be in places where it’s not unduly attractive to young people,” said Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis.

At least 25% of sales must consist of items such as hookahs, pipes, cigarettes and vaping supplies in order for a retailer to meet the moratorium’s “smoke shop” definition. This is intended to exclude convenience stores, which primarily sell groceries and commodities.

Five existing smoke shops in the city will be unaffected by the temporary ban. Any potential local law would grandfather in those sellers, DeSantis maintained.

“There hasn’t been like a flurry of them, but we understand that there are quite a few of them in Gloversville,” said the mayor.

Smoke shops have applied for three building permits within the last two years. There were “a few others that were spoken of, but never came forward for any actual planning board actions,” according to Building Inspector David Fox.

Johnstown-based Sweet Smokers Zone went before the city Planning Board to propose sites at 6 Washington St. and 99 Spring St. in 2022. Members of Glove City Coalition community advocacy group expressed concerns over the latter site’s proximity to children coming home from school.

Both proposals were ultimately considered, but nothing materialized.

“We haven’t done anything to them,” said employee Frank Nasser. “[The owner] was interested at first. Now, he’s not. He’s now looking around.”

Owner Ibraheem Aljamall wasn’t available for comment. Business stakeholders have previously noted that they take additional steps to prevent underage smoking and vaping.

Youth smoking decreased from 23% in 2000 to an all-time low of 2.3% in 2021 — a stark contrast credited to a fusillade of public awareness campaign commercials over the last two decades.

But the normalization of tobacco products still looms as a threat to youth in public spaces, said Glove City Coalition Director Bonnie Peck.

“You’ve got all these products in all these shops and when it gets to the point where you can’t even walk down the street without seeing them, of course, you’re going to think that it’s something that you should be doing everybody else does it,” she said.

During a recent training day with the Gloversville Youth Coalition, Peck and volunteers picked up a large bag full of cigarettes at Trail Station Park. Smoking is banned at public parks citywide.

DeSantis has expressed some interest in possibly creating a lengthy setback between future smoke shops and playgrounds, athletic facilities and public parks.

State regulations enacted in 2020 prohibit tobacco-industry advertisements and paraphernalia within 500 feet of a school in New York City and 1,500 feet elsewhere in the state. That same year, the state banned such products from pharmacies.

Gov. Kathy Hochul in February proposed a total ban of flavored-tobacco products. However, the proposal fell out of favor with both chambers of the legislature, concerned it could disproportionately impact minority groups and create a black market.

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or X @TylerAMcNeil.

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