The Cayuga County Health Department is frustrated after discovering that two smoke shops in the Auburn area, Auburn Express Smoke Shop and Panda Smoke and Vape, cannot have their tobacco licenses suspended due to their expiration. In January, the smoke shops were fined a total of over $150,000 for selling flavored vaping products, which is illegal in New York, and selling tobacco products to underage customers.
Penalties for Auburn Express Smoke Shop and Panda Smoke and Vape included a year-long suspension of their state tobacco licenses. However, the Cayuga County Health Department was informed by the state Department of Health that the licenses had lapsed, making it impossible to suspend them. Eileen O’Connor, head of the local health department’s environmental health division, explained that the state Department of Taxation and Finance will launch enforcement actions against the smoke shops for operating with expired licenses, but this could take up to a year and result in fines that are “not large.”
The county is considering alternative measures to enforce the law.
The Cayuga County Board of Health passed a motion supporting the changes to local law, but the amendments must still be approved by the Cayuga County Legislature. The inability to suspend licenses and enforce penalties against smoke shops, coupled with the challenge of addressing property owners who are non-compliant with laws, highlights the difficulties of enforcing local laws and ensuring the safety and health of the community.
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