Mayor Walsh Signs Local Law Restricting New Tobacco Retailers

Published on September 15, 2023

New law “grandfathers” existing locations but requires ongoing compliance and licensure and includes measures to reduce the number of new tobacco licenses in Syracuse

Syracuse, N.Y. – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh today signed into law a new licensing requirement that restricts the placement of new tobacco retail locations near schools and parks in the City of Syracuse. The ordinance also caps the number of available tobacco retail licenses and sets a licensing approval policy that will reduce tobacco retail locations in the city in the future. The restriction does not impact current locations that are in compliance with city permitting requirements.

The new law, approved by the Syracuse Common Council on Sept. 5, will require sellers of tobacco products, electronic smoking devices, and other products covered under the Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act to maintain a city tobacco retail license. New locations within 750 feet of a school or public park will not be approved. New retailers also cannot be within 750 feet of an existing license holder. To reduce the number of tobacco sellers over time, new locations will be approved only when two existing licenses have expired or been revoked.

“This is a matter of public health. Our goals are to reduce the number of individuals of all ages who use tobacco products and electronic smoking devices and, importantly, to stop the sale of these products to minors,” said Mayor Walsh. “During our review of the ordinance we received strong support from public and private health organizations. I also thank the Common Council for its unanimous support for the law.”

“Passing strong tobacco retailer licensing laws is a step toward health equity and is in the best interest of the children of Syracuse’s health,” said Brittany Taylor, community impact director of the American Heart Association. “The health of our community is on the line and these requirements will allow Syracuse officials to know where tobacco products are being sold and give officials stronger oversight through regular compliance checks.” 

Karyn Johnson, program coordinator of Tobacco-Free CNY said, “The location and density of tobacco retailers influence tobacco use among residents… [T]he average age of a new smoker is 13 years old.  Studies have shown that the higher the number of tobacco retailers, the more exposure to tobacco marketing occurs, making youth more likely to experiment with tobacco use. This marketing is prominently displayed, and the concentration of advertising is often higher in retailers close to schools and youth establishments; 34 tobacco retailers in the City of Syracuse are within 750 feet of a K-12 school. Tobacco retail licensing is a powerful tool for the community to shape its retail environment to reflect community values. Retail licensing furthers the objective to prevent disease and promote health and health equity.”

The law was the subject of a Common Council Economic Development meeting chaired by Common Councilor Pat Hogan earlier this summer. Mayor Walsh also conducted a public hearing regarding the law on Sept. 12. It is available online in the Sept. 5 Common Council agenda.

The new ordinance is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1, 2023.