Tobacco Free Coalition: Tobacco companies and retailers target Albany County's Poor

November 16, 2017 05:30 PM

ALBANY - In downtown Albany, there are five tobacco retailers for every thousand people. In Delmar, there are just .50.  The disparity is linked to income and it's appalling to many of the people who call the affected neighborhoods home.

"Everywhere you go there's a bodega and someone is selling loosies.  Pharmacies are selling cigarettes so we know laws need to be revised and enforced," complained life-long South End resident Mary Ann Hines.

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Specific neighborhoods are targeted by the tobacco industry and individual stores, anti-tobacco advocates believe, because smoking rates are 43-percent higher for people who are considered low-income. Albany's Arbor Hill, South End and West Hill have most of the county's licensed tobacco shops, but only 12-percent of the county's population.

"If the environment is not conducive to people not starting or not quitting, then it's really difficult," explained Jeanie Orr of the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition.

The Tobacco-Free Coalition is calling on municipalities to crack down on licensing by capping the number of tobacco retailers and banning stores near schools from selling tobacco products.

"If they (kids) walk out the door and tobacco products are everywhere they go, it becomes more normal and acceptable to them," added Orr.

The hope is also that business - especially pharmacies - better regulate itself and put people over profit.

"We are angry as hell, yes, because it's affecting our young people and adults doing the best they can," believed Hines.

Smoking rates among adults in NYS are 15-percent.  But in households where the income is under $25,000, the smoking rate is more than 21-percent.  And it’s 22-percent percent amongst people who have less than a high school degree.


Abigail Bleck

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