Erie County approves new smoking bans, social host law

Dec 7, 2018

While the major issue on Thursday's agenda was next year's budget, the Erie County Legislature also passed two other significant pieces of legislation.

Legislators passed the Public Health Protection Act of 2018, a mix of three separate bans. Democrats called it "the most significant anti-tobacco legislation in Erie County since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1996."

It was passed over the objection of Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo who wanted separate votes. He is opposed to the new ban on health institutions, like pharmacies selling cigarettes. Lorigo said pharmacies and other small businesses should not be told what to do while many pharmacies have stopped selling tobacco products on their own.              

"This country is built on capitalism and a free market economy. Those businesses made that decision on their own and bravo to them. That's the way it should work. That's what this country was founded on," Lorigo said. "Instead, we're packaging that up with two other good ideas. One bad idea. Two good ideas."

The law also bars smoking around bus stops and smoking in a car while there is someone under 18 in the vehicle. Legislature Chair Peter Savage said the smoking controls are the way to go.

"You can consume alcohol responsibly and the moderation will not pose the same health risks," he said. "You can eat candy, sugary beverages and you can do so in a responsible manner. But there is no such thing as moderately smoking."

Legislators also approved a bill to tighten the ban on parents who give alcohol to visiting kids or allow them to use drugs in their home. The current probe of Lewiston parents who allowed that allegedly led to rapes of teens and arrests and entangled two prominent local private high schools.

Legislator Lynne Dixon pushed through her updated Social Host Law.

"If my 18-year-old was going over to a friend's house and I knew the parents were going to be home and that provided me some comfort knowing that the parents were home, and then I find out that the parents are serving alcohol or allowing them to smoke marijuana or giving them Jell-O shots or allowing them to have opiates or opioids, it would upset me very much because I would have some had some level of comfort knowing that the parents were home," Dixon said.