DELMAR — Stores selling tobacco products in Bethlehem will need a town issued license to do so after January 1.
The Board voted 3 to 1 in favor of implementing a new licencing requirement on Wednesday, Aug. 12. It requires vendors obtain a license and pay related fees each year. The mandate applies to any vendor peddling products that contain tobacco leaf or nicotine, including vapor products. Paraphernalia, such as separately-sold cartridges, vaping liquids or pipes, is included.
The new requirement prevents retailers from selling vapor products within 1,000 feet of schools, but does not limit the sale of other tobacco products.
Municipalities with such licensing programs vary between absorbing costs incurred during the process or extending those costs in the form of fees to the businesses which seek them.
Robert Leslie, director of Economic Development and Planning, shared three examples of communities that charge. Town of Manheim, with a population of 3,300 people in Herkimer County, has a $200 application and $200 approval fee for a total cost of $400. The Village of Dolgeville, with a population of 2,200 people in Herkimer County, has only a $200 application fee. The City of Yonkers also charges a $200 fee. In comparison, town businesses will pay a $130 application fee and a $140 approval fee — a total of $270.
“We don’t want to make this burdensome on our local businesses, and I don’t think this is,” said Dan Coffey. The town board member said the goal is not to profit through licensing. “I think the goal is to recapture the amount of time it takes our staff to process this paperwork,” he said.
This legislation is an extension of the town’s initial effort to curb the sale of vape products to children. The Board imposed the first of two, six-month moratoriums last June after the town received a building permit application for a vape shop neighboring Elsmere Elementary School on Delaware Avenue.
At the same time, published studies depicting prevalent use of flavored vape products among teenagers initiated legislators to take action. In July, New York became the fourth state in the country to ban the sale of flavored vape products.
Jim Foster, who opposed the new program, questioned the need for it in the presence of new state legislation. He also described the burden of cost associated with processing licences as “a work by the town’s own creation.”
“The landscape has changed a lot since this was initially on the table,” said Foster, noting the annual costs will pose a “significant impact” for businesses over time. “I think many of the benefits that were hoped to be achieved with the licensing program have essentially been preempted.”