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Smoking, alcohol sales restricted in Green Code

Buffalo’s new Green Code will do more than restrict where houses can be built and how tall buildings may stand.

It also will restrict where beer and cigarettes can be sold and where hookah bars and vaping lounges can locate.

Existing businesses are grandfathered and can continue operating, but any new businesses after the Green Code is enacted would be governed by the new rules.

"We heard the community," said Brendan Mehaffy, the city's top planning official, when explaining why the new restrictions were included in the new code.

The new rules prohibit the sale of alcohol and smoking products – cigarettes, hookah and e-cigarettes – in residential areas, and permit the business on commercials strips only with special approval from the Common Council.

Once the Green Code is enacted, such businesses would be permitted to open without special permission – without obtaining what is known as a special use permit – only in the downtown business district, shopping plazas and light industrial districts.

The Council is expected to vote on the Green Code in late December or early January.

The restrictions on where alcohol and smoking products can be sold is aimed at addressing concerns expressed by residents over the past few years, while the code was being developed.

In several instances, residents and neighborhood groups asked the city to limit the sale of alcohol and tobacco products in places frequented by children, including near parks and schools as well as in high-crime neighborhoods.

In addition, Roswell Park Cancer Institute has been expressing concern to city officials about the dangers of hookah smoking, as well as air quality in hookah bars, where flavored tobacco is sold and smoked out of hookah pipes.

In fact, regardless of the Green Code, the Common Council is poised to impose tighter restrictions on hookah bars by including them in the city's smoking ordinance.

South District Councilman Christopher Scanlon introduced a measure that requires hookah bars as well as e-cigarette vaping lounges to get Common Council approval to open anywhere in the city.

A Roswell Park study conducted along with the New York School of Medicine in New York City found indoor air pollution caused by hookah smoke is twice as high as in bars where cigarette smoking is permitted, Scanlon wrote in his resolution.

Scanlon said he'll be talking with the city's Office of Strategic Planning to coordinate his proposal with the Green Code prior to either being voted upon by the Council.


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