Dear Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Bosworth, Council Member Lurvey
and Board of Zoning Appeals Members,
I am concerned about 7-Eleven applying to open a 24-hour store selling alcohol, tobacco and vape products in the center of the Manhasset community at 260 Plandome Rd. This would negatively impact our health and safety in many ways.
Almost 20 years ago concerned citizens formed the Manhasset Coalition Against Substance Abuse to address the problems of youth alcohol and other drug use, with substantial collaboration and financial support from the Manhasset School District, the SCA, individual family donors, the Manhasset Community and Greentree Good Neighbor Funds and local health and law enforcement partners. In connection with last year’s Harlem Wizards fundraiser, we received additional support for which we thank our Plandome Road merchants including Schout Bay, Villa Milano, A&F Market, Raindew, Louie’s Diner, Fred Astaire dance studio, Daniel Gale, the Little Shop ‘round the corner, and Kelly’s Kitchen. We all care about the health of our families. Large out-of-town corporations do not operate the same way, as exemplified by the fact that Walgreen’s pharmacy cannot even display our “Shed the Meds” medication take back event in its store.
When the teen brain is exposed to alcohol or nicotine at a young age its chemistry is altered, making future substance use disorders much more likely. The World Health Organization has been attempting since 2010 to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol. Every year, alcohol kills 2.5 million people, including 320,000 young people between 15 and 29 years of age. It is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally. Smoking, obesity, and drinking alcohol are the top three factors the American Cancer Society calls preventable causes of cancer and it now recommends complete alcohol avoidance. Smoking and obesity have been identified as high risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness.
Our children already are suffering from a vaping epidemic as a result of misleading industry advertising and lax regulation. Last year, 25 percent of 12th graders and almost 20 percent of 10th graders reported vaping in the prior month. Nationwide, more than 5 million middle and high school students use e-cigarettes.
With all our efforts to save lives and improve health outcomes, why would we allow round-the-clock temptation to purchase alcohol and cigarettes? 7-Eleven’s commitment to health was questioned by a May 2019 report from Oregon: since 2010 on 2,307 occasions 7-Eleven stores were caught selling tobacco products to minors, or 25 percent of 7-Eleven stores. On 888 occasions, stores received civil penalties from the FDA for selling to minors more than once in the same year. These illegal sales continue despite a 2005 court-ordered agreement between corporate 7-Eleven and 40 state attorneys general requiring strict policies and training to stop selling tobacco to minors. The FDA Commissioner warned that paying these fines and penalties appeared to be “a cost of doing business.” Indeed, 7-Eleven is the nation’s largest retailer of tobacco products, and many of its 7,925 locations are located near schools. Representatives of 7-Eleven applying for a permit on Plandome Road stated that despite our concerns they intend to sell whatever is legal. If we value health we can and should do better than this.
In addition to adverse health effects such as cancer, cirrhosis, high blood pressure and stroke, greater availability of alcohol is linked to increased risk of harm from violence, including homicide, suicide, road traffic accidents, pedestrian collisions, child abuse, and domestic violence. One of the evidence-based policies recommended to reduce alcohol consumption is to reduce easy access through controls on outlet density and hours of sales.
Alcohol outlet density is associated with higher overall consumption and frequency of drinking. Studies also suggest that outlet density makes underage purchases more likely to be successful and may be related to drinking and drunken driving among youth. The proximity effect describes how easily one can access alcohol: each new outlet potentially increases the competitive pressures on existing outlets resulting in price reductions and increased levels of consumption. The amenity effects relate to the negative impacts of licensed premises on their neighborhood including violence, street disturbances and other social problems.
We need a careful approach with input from community health and safety experts. Plandome Road already has numerous convenience, pharmacy, and coffee stores including the availability of alcohol at Walgreen’s until 10pm. Adding a 24-hour large corporate alcohol and tobacco outlet to the middle of our community would contribute nothing while substantially changing its character and negatively impacting health and safety.
Our families made their concern for health known when over 3,000 signed a petition against the application of Medmen to open a marijuana store. A petition with input from CASA, the Manhasset civic associations and other community leaders will soon be available to express opposition to any BZA conditional use permit for this business in the heart of Manhasset’s community. Please listen and help our efforts to protect our families.
Executive Director, Manhasset Coalition Against Substance Abuse