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Supporters of new restrictions on tobacco advertising in Buffalo gathered this morning on the corner of South Elmwood Avenue and Chippewa Street outside a mini-mart to urge compliance with the new law that takes effect today.

The group, which included the principal and some students from Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, applauded as Mohammed Abuhamra, owner of Best Mart, took down a cardboard sign advertising Marlboro cigarettes from a post at the corner, across from the school.

Abuhamra said he had earlier removed all signs from the windows, including electric cigarette sales signs, but said the cardboard sign on the base of his street sign went unnoticed until this morning.

"I remember last year when the coalition questioned some of our students about cigarette advertising and one young girl said she spent most of her school day looking out the window and the cigarette signs across the street," said David Greco, principal of Hutch-Tech.

"She said she just couldn't concentrate on her school work."

"It is my hope," said Phil Haberstro, co-chairman of the coalition, "that this ordinance will help overcome the aggressive marketing tactics that have been used for years by the tobacco industry to entice children and youth to become addicted to their products.

"Since tobacco companies understand that 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 18, they have geared their advertising towards youth.

"It has been and extremely successful strategy for them."

The Youth Protection Against Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act prohibits the outdoor advertising of tobacco products within 1,000 feet from schools, child-care centers, children's institutions, playgrounds, youth centers or amusement arcades.

The law, supported by the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition, includes regulations on any advertising "in a publicly visible location" but does not regulate advertising intended to be visible only by those inside the premises.

"This act is a step in the right direction," Haberstro said.

"The new City of Buffalo regulations ensure that children and youth are protected from tobacco advertising influences in places that are frequented by children."

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