Late last year, County Executive George Latimer announced plans and $3M in funding for a new “Westchester Tobacco-free” program aimed at curbing sales of tobacco, flavored tobacco products and vaping products to youth in Westchester County. While Westchester already boasts some of the lowest smoking rates in the state, this stepped up effort to reach school age children intends to bring that smoking rate even lower.

To begin the “Westchester Tobacco-free” program, Latimer and the County’s Department of Health has begun hosting trainings and informational meetings for merchants so they can better spot youth aiming to gain access to tobacco, flavored tobacco products and vaping products here in Westchester.

This robust and proactive response by Latimer will help to fund a public education campaign to all residents, highlighting the dangers of tobacco usage and help to support local community efforts to reduce smoking.

Latimer said: “Westchester’s youth have far too great an opportunity to begin using tobacco, flavored tobacco products and vaping products – which is exactly what Big Tobacco companies need to get new users for their addictive and deadly products. This new program will utilize the already strong tools afforded to us in County government to their greatest extent to stem this tide and protect our kids from exposure to these harmful products.”

During the merchant trainings, licensed tobacco sellers are reminded of the current law and are given a “compliance checklist” to ensure it is being followed. Merchants are also informed that beginning this summer, the Westchester County Department of Health will enhance inspections and educational visits to shops that are licensed to sell tobacco products. As a result of this program, stores may notice inspectors coming into their facilities several times a year.

Westchester County currently has, per the New York State Department of Health, the lowest smoking rate in the state, at just 7%. 

Department of Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, said: “Our County Health Department is ready and able to assist merchants in our joint goal of preventing young people from gaining access to tobacco, flavored tobacco products and vaping products. These trainings, the compliance checklist, random inspections and public education will help us reach this goal.”

In addition to a strong educational campaign, this new program also will develop and expand resources to ensure improved enforcement of the Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act. This New York State law was enacted to help stop the sale of tobacco products, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine, and rolling papers and other smoking paraphernalia to anyone under twenty-one (21) years of age. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, powdered tobacco, bidis, gutka, shisha, and any other tobacco products.