By Lisa Capobianco
The Southington Town Council voted unanimously Monday for two proposed ordinances on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products—one ordinance will prevent convenience stores from displaying tobacco or nicotine products in areas where underage customers can view them. The other ordinance calls for tighter restrictions on signs that advertise alcohol specials.
Over a dozen members of the STEPS Youth Council and the Advisory Board worked together through research and collaboration with the Ordinance Committee to draft the proposal before finalizing the ordinance with Town Attorney Mark Sciota.
The Youth Council’s ordinance proposed that besides tobacco products (cigarettes), all tobacco delivery products and any smoking devices (bongs, rolling papers, pipes) should be locked and placed in an area of the store away from public access such as behind the counter. Each violation of the ordinance will be considered a “separate municipal offense,” and each separate offense under the ordinance shall be punishable by a fine of the maximum amount permitted by Connecticut General Statutes payable to the town.
Under another proposed ordinance, the Youth Council also requested for more restrictions on alcohol advertisements. The ordinance states that all signs advertising drink specials such as “happy hour” ads, must indicate that only individuals age 21 and over can take advantage of such specials, and all customers must show identification. Each violation of this ordinance will be considered as a “separate municipal offense” and will be punishable by a fine of the maximum amount permitted by Connecticut General Statutes payable to the town.
Sciota said at Monday’s council meeting that the ordinance will take effect upon 21 days after publication. Town Councilor Chris Palmieri thanked members of the Youth Council for their months of research and collaboration on the ordinance. Town Councilor Dawn Miceli added that the proposed ordinance is timely, considering the widespread use of e-cigarettes.
“I’m very proud of our community that we’re going to take this step tonight…and I’m glad we’re including e-cigarettes as well cause we’re seeing more prevalent use of that,” Miceli said during the meeting.
The proposal for a new ordinance started last year when the Youth Council learned about ordinances from senior members and Town Councilor Chris Palmieri, who also serves on the STEPS Advisory Board and the Ordinance Committee. Members of the Youth Council presented four ideas to Palmieri and discussed the effects and limitations to each one. After the discussion, the Youth Council narrowed down their ideas to two and conducted a presentation before the Ordinance Committee in August.
Upon their research, the students found a Connecticut court case, which upheld the decision that requires retailers to place tobacco products behind counters and requires customers to have contact with a salesperson before purchasing them. Another important step in the project involved determining whether or not local gas stations and convenience stores displaying paraphernalia in clear sight served as a prevalent issue in town. During a risk assessment of these stores, the Youth Council and the Advisory Board discovered that nearly every store sells e-cigarettes and rolling papers. They also discovered that most stores sell the e-cigarettes right on the counter, and ten stores sell hookahs. Their report also mentioned that five gas stations sell everything on the list, and ALTA and Derynoski Elementary School are located near two of these five gas stations that sell everything on the list.