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VENDORS OPPOSE COUNTY BAN ON CIGARETTE MACHINES

The County Legislature is considering a ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines in Erie County.

The move received low marks today from local vending service operators.

During the first public discussion today before the Legislature's Public Health committee, two vendors criticized the plan as overrestrictive.

Dick Thurnherr, owner of T's Vending Service of Cheektowaga, said that if the proposal becomes law, his business would be ruined.

"That's all we do, so if they are banned, my son and I are headed into bankruptcy," Thurnherr said.

The former Cheektowaga police detective said Legislator Michael J. Ranzenhofer is misdirected in his bid to reduce teen-age smoking by outlawing machine sales of tobacco products. Thurnherr said those sales constitute only a small fraction of total cigarette sales.

"Ninety percent of my machines are located in establishments where you have to be 21 years old to get in the door. Kids aren't getting to those machines," he said.

Last year Ranzenhofer saw passage of his plan, which mandated cigarette machines be placed within sight of cashiers to monitor purchases by minors. He said today that strategy isn't working and a total ban is the only answer.

"I'm not seeing compliance. I know there's a vending machine at the Friendly's Restaurant on Main Street in Williamsville that hasn't been moved an inch since the law went into effect," said Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst.

He said he suspects many more of the 3,000 cigarette machines across the county also remain out of compliance.

During today's preliminary discussion, East Aurora Republican Frederick J. Marshall suggested a compromise, which would outlaw only those machines located in places frequented by youths.

The vendors said they might be able to support a measure that would continue to allow vending machine sales at bars and other establishments where patrons must be at least 21.

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