Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, determined to clean up the city’s small corner stores — some of which are indeed running amok — has proposed a law that would make it illegal for licensed tobacco dealers to sell single cigarettes, known as “loosies.” OK, but why the need for a city law when the state and federal governments have them?
The mayor explains that the state and federal tax statutes that forbid the practice are tough for local police to enforce; the participation of state and federal authorities is required. And, he says, the city would get to keep the revenue from enforcement of a local law, whereas it would have to forfeit any from violations of the state or federal ones.
Such an explanation certainly implies that McCarthy plans to have police enforce the law, but when asked how much revenue he anticipates getting from it, he acknowledges that “some of [the law] is symbolic, to send a message,” and that he expects “quick compliance, without enforcement” once it is passed.
We hope he’s right because “loosies,” which are sold at a tremendous mark-up over regular cigarette prices, are favorites of kids and poor people, who typically can’t afford a whole pack. And it would be better if these people didn’t smoke, period.
On the other hand, we can’t help but think that this is yet another instance of the mayor expecting people to obey a law they know police are unlikely to enforce. And they’re unlikely to enforce it for a pretty good reason: They have far more serious violations of law to worry about.