Council hikes fine for youth cig sales

Clarke: Dilworth to CCD.
Clarke: Dilworth to CCD.
Posted: December 03, 2010

Backing a Nutter administration effort to reduce youth smoking, City Council yesterday passed legislation that hikes the fines for merchants who sell tobacco products to minors.

The bill would raise the penalty from $100 to $250 per incident. Councilwoman Marian Tasco said she hoped that the move would be meaningful.

"If Licenses & Inspections enforces it, it should have some impact," Tasco said.

During hearings on the legislation several weeks ago, city Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz testified that a national survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that smoking rates among high-school youth in Philadelphia rank among the highest in the nation's big cities.

About half of Philadelphia high-school students have smoked a cigarette at least once, and studies show that up to half of them will become daily smokers as adults, Schwarz said during the November hearing.

Schwartz yesterday stressed that the new fines would be combined with an education effort aimed at schooling retailers on why they shouldn't sell tobacco products to the underage.

"So that retailers realize that it's not just their bottom line, but it's what happens to their community," Schwartz said.

The vote came during Council's first full weekly session since the state Supreme Court ruled that they must provide a public comment period during the sessions.

Among the first commenters was Darrell M. Zaslow, the attorney who represented the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia, which in 2007 challenged the previous practice of allowing public comment during committee level hearings, but not the weekly sessions.

Zaslow commended Council but said that he was concerned by the guidelines laid down by Council President Anna Verna for the comments - among them, that the public could testify only on items on Council's legislative agenda for the day.

"The proposed temporary regulation will not allow public comment on items of concern to the public generally," Zaslow said. He said he hoped that Council would work to improve the rules.

Verna said that she had received an opinion from City Solicitor Shelley Smith that the current setup was in compliance. The opinion states that "while Council's authority to restrict comment only to matters potentially up for a vote at that meeting is not entirely free from doubt, I believe the Sunshine Act permits doing so."

* Also in Council yesterday, Councilman Darrell Clarke introduced legislation that would lease Dilworth Plaza to the Center City District, which is overseeing a $50 million makeover to the site.

|
|
|
|
|