Correction: An earlier version of this story attributed comments made by City Council President Leesa Perazzo to Councilman John Mootooveren.
SCHENECTADY — The City Council is looking to set new limits on tobacco sales by convenience stores in Schenectady, and council members are hoping to move quickly.
City Council President Leesa Perazzo said she wants fellow council members to offer concrete ideas for a tobacco sales law within two weeks, after the council was informed that it doesn't have the authority to impose a temporary moratorium while it deliberates.
"Without a moratorium on sales, the clock is ticking," Perazzo said at a committee meeting Monday at City Hall. "I would impress on everyone that everyone come to the table (in two weeks) with concrete proposals, so we can be prepared to move forward."
The council is looking for ways to cap the number of convenience stores selling cigarettes in the city, and also to prohibit new stores from selling tobacco products if they are within 1,000 feet of a school.
Council members had hoped to use a moratorium to prevent new stores from opening before a law can be passed, but city Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said his research indicated that the city can't do it.
"I don't believe we can, because right now we don't have any city-level permit on the sale of tobacco," Falotico said.
The city requires convenience stores to have a permit, but doesn't separately require a tobacco sales permit, he explained.
Any move to limit convenience stores or their tobacco sales is likely to face opposition from convenience stores. James Calvin, executive director of the state Association of Convenience Stores, told the council recently that the association would be concerned about new restrictions on the sale of any legal product.
Perazzo said the city's public policy goals are both to reduce the use of tobacco products and to keep young people from taking up their use. City officials have met with the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition, which is lobbying communities across the region to impose new restrictions on tobacco sales.
Under a law adopted by Schenectady County last year, tobacco purchasers are supposed to be at least 21 years old, though it is unclear how effective that law has been.
Under the proposals the council has discussed, existing stores that sell tobacco products and are within 1,000 feet of a school could continue to operate until they change ownership. If the business is sold, that would give the city the leverage to ban tobacco sales going forward.
Perazzo said the city isn't just concerned about convenience stores near schools, but also about the situation found in some neighborhoods where several stores selling cigarettes and similar products are found within a short distance of each other.
In a related development, the council last month adopted a new local law banning smoking within 50 feet of any city-owned building. The goal is to reduce the number of cigarette butts that collect near where employees or visitors smoke, and also to discourage them from smoking in general.