Elbridge village targets tobacco signage

The village of Elbridge board on Tuesday, in conjunction with the Tobacco-Free Onondaga County initiative, passed a non binding resolution to encourage retailers within the village to limit or remove tobacco-advertising.

Rhoda Smith, who presented the program to the board in August, said the resolution allows the county to approach retailers on behalf of the village and present the board's official stance on tobacco advertising.

"It's not really about enforcement, it's about education and awareness," Smith said of the resolution, which is not enforceable by law enforcement. The primary focus of the program and its' involvement with municipalities is to create a clean, smoke-free environment for nonsmokers, Smith said. The Tobacco-Free Onondaga County program also works with municipalities and companies to provide smoke-free playgrounds and public places and apartments.

None of the four Elbridge residents present at the board meeting spoke during the public hearing to address the village's potential involvement in the program.

Joe Farrugia, who, along with his brother Michael Farrugia, owns the Elbridge Big M grocery store as well as three others in the area, did not expect his business to be affected by the resolution.

He said he received a letter from the county earlier in the summer, and that last he knew the board had tabled their discussion of the program. He had not been aware of the board's resolution until he was contacted by The Advocate last week.

"In our stores, cigarettes are not our mainstay," Farrugia said. "Any kind of so-called advertisements are minimal anyway."

At Big M, the tobacco is stocked on a wall behind the customer service desk. Even cashiers have to get tobacco products from customer service associates.

Farrugia pointed out there is probably more anti-smoking signage in the Big M than tobacco advertising. The Farrugia brothers also own the Jordan Big M, and went through something similar when the village of Jordan passed a similar resolution. Joe said the Jordan store, like the Elbridge location, already had limited tobacco advertisements posted, and little change took place.

Down the road, at Elbridge Mini-Mart, cigarettes are also stocked behind the cashier counter, out of reach of customers. A plain, black and white sign on the front window boasts the lowest cigarette prices in the state.

Marshall Bros., Inc., owners of the Mini-Mart, could not be reached for comment.

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