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Tobacco

Port Jefferson shops such as Hookah City on Main Street, above, sell hookahs. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson officials have made explicit their antipathy for the vape and smoke shop in the village, especially after news broke an employee had been cited for selling to children underage.

Hookah City, located at 202 Main St. in Port Jefferson was recently charged with unlawfully dealing with a child in a countywide police sting labeled Operation Vape Out. It was amongst 32 establishments that Suffolk County police said were cited for illicit behavior, most concerning selling tobacco products to children under the legal age limit of 21.

“All eyes are on that place,” said Trustee Kathianne Snaden during a conversation after the Sept. 23 village board meeting.

“It’s immoral to addict a human being to something they can’t get away from.”

— Paul Casciano

Mayor Margot Garant said they had asked Village Attorney Brian Egan about the shop but were told there is nothing in village code that allows the village to affect a business in such a way, adding there was nothing that violated their lease. 

Fred Leute, the acting chief of code enforcement, said constables take reports and inform Suffolk County police regarding businesses selling to people underage. Leute added they had originally sent notice to police about the shop.

“Kids would come in and put their knapsack down — they would have money on the knapsack, and a note stapled to it what they wanted,” the acting chief said. “The guy who they caught would take that note, fill their order, so to speak, and put the stuff in the bag, then the kid would come by and take their bag.”

A manager or owner of Hookah City could not be reached for comment before press time.

New York State was originally set to ban the creation and sale of flavored e-cigarette products Oct. 4, but a day before the deadline the state appellate court put that order on hold until the court reconvenes Oct. 18. The proposed ban came after a wave of health cases the U.S. Centers for Disease Control attributed to vaping, among them were several deaths. As at Oct. 8, there have been 1,080 cases of injury nationwide with 23 deaths. There have been 110 cases attributed to New York, according to the state’s health department. On the same day, the death of a Bronx teen was announced as the first confirmed fatality in New York related to vape products.

Under the 1992 state Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act, each time a vendor is caught selling tobacco products to a person under the age of 21, that vendor will acquire two points on their license. If the vendor acquires three points within a three-year period of time, the vendor will lose its tobacco and lottery ticket licenses.

Though as of recently this is the first infraction in a number of years. Suffolk police’s research section found Hookah City has had no other infractions of selling to minors since the beginning of 2016. 

Nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, according to New York State health officials.

Parents and school officials in Port Jefferson said not only are kids using vape products excessively in school but are doing so sometimes in the middle of classrooms and clandestinely in bathrooms.

Soon-to-be-outgoing Superintendent Paul Casciano said in a sit-down interview that districts all across the county have been dealing with the same thing. While the district has added vape detectors, students will either blow the smoke into backpacks or lockers to avoid smoke detectors or find areas of the school without the detectors. Incoming Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said at the last school board meeting the district takes away vape products from students, who are then disciplined.

“The kids aren’t producing this stuff, and that for me and among my colleagues is one of the most disturbing parts — adults are creating these things,” Casciano said. “It’s immoral to addict a human being to something they can’t get away from.”

The district recently played host to the countywide peer education pilot program about the dangers of vaping. 

But for the one last vape shop in Port Jeff, the focus has come down hard on its shoulders for the number of students who have continued to vape. Casciano said there is little the district can do to affect the businesses in and around Port Jeff, many of whom sell vape and e-cig products. The most they can do is applaud current activities from New York State and continue to educate young people about vape products.

“The local efforts, whether its local or state officials, those have all helped, because if you can’t get your hands on the flavors … it will be even more difficult for them,” Schmettan said.

The mayor mentioned limiting vaping in village parks, but she later said that, unlike cigarettes which offer physical discomfort and negative health effects to pedestrians, it would be hard to enforce with citations.

“I think it goes back to the household.”

— Margot Garant

Snaden said the issue of vaping needs an effort on all ends. She suggested the school district should include harsher penalties to students who use vape products in schools, including potentially kicking them off sport teams. 

“If everywhere these kids turn, everywhere they turn they’re being shown this is not accepted in this village, they’re either going to take it somewhere else — we’re not going to alleviate the problem altogether — we have to hit them everywhere they turn,” she said. “They have to get turned away everywhere, that’s how we can get the message across.”

Village code currently disallows new smoke shops in Port Jefferson, but Hookah City was grandfathered in when the code was changed in 2016. Garant said during the Oct. 7 village board meeting that with the current code, they are looking to enforce other businesses within the village to limit the sale of vape products. 

“They would all have to become vape dispensaries, so we’re cracking down on them ourselves,” she said. 

She added that vaping, just like any other drug use, often requires work from those closest to the youth.

“I think it goes back to the household,” the mayor said.

Stock photo

By Donna Deedy

Tobacco continues to hold a top spot as the number one cause of preventable death throughout the world, according to Suffolk County. And county lawmakers have now voted 16-2 to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. 

“Tobacco harms every organ in the body and is the only legal product sold in America that when used as directed, kills up to half of its long-term users,” said Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), who co-sponsored the bill.  

The bill’s passage emphasizes that pharmacies are health-focused businesses and aligns with the county’s other efforts to decrease tobacco use. It recently raised the age to purchase tobacco products to age 21, for example, and prohibits smoking in county parks, beaches and Suffolk County Community College.

“This law decreases the bombardment of colorful tobacco displays meant to entice children and it reduces the influence on adults trying to break the addiction to nicotine,” said Lori Benincasa, retired director for health education for Suffolk County.

The new law applies to all tobacco products, including cigarettes, loose tobacco, cigars, powdered tobacco, shisha, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, electronic liquids, rolling paper and smoking paraphernalia. Consumers will still be allowed to purchase FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies in pharmacies such as skin patches, nicotine gum and lozenges. 

The ban will take effect 180 days after its filing with the Secretary of State’s office, likely before the end of 2019. 

Vapors is located on Main Street in Port Jefferson. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Local governments are cracking down on smoking in all its forms by confining related businesses to certain locations.

Brookhaven Town recently restricted smoke shops and lounges and one village is looking to strengthen rules already in place for the establishments.

The action started in the fall, when the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees passed a law that effectively banned hookah shops, as well as tattoo parlors and adult entertainment. Residents and village officials had been vocal about what they perceived to be too many shops on Main Street selling hookahs — water pipes used for smoking flavored tobacco — and their related products. Many had complained that the businesses attract an undesirable type of person to the area and sell unhealthy items. Some also said they feared the shops would sell paraphernalia and dangerous substances to underage patrons.

The dissent propelled a law that now restricts future hookah shops, tattoo parlors and adult establishments like topless bars to the Light Industrial I-2 District zone. While the preexisting shops are not affected, the law effectively bans future shops because only two properties in the entire village are zoned light industrial — and both of those Columbia Street plots are already occupied.

Hookah City is located on Main Street in Port Jefferson. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Hookah City is located on Main Street in Port Jefferson. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Passing an outright ban would have been an illegal action.

Port Jefferson Village is now seeking to tighten its restrictions by folding into the law marijuana dispensaries and stores selling products linked to e-cigarettes and vaporizers. The village code proposal, which will come up for a public hearing on June 6, states that such establishments bring “well-documented negative secondary effects … such as increased crime, decreased property values and reduced shopping and commercial activities.” It also cites the health risks of e-cigarettes and the dangers of exposing children to the behavior.

“The expansion of the foregoing businesses has resulted in increased anti-social behavior involving minors,” it says.

Among the restrictions, the shops in the light industrial zone could not be within a certain distance of facilities such as community centers, churches or schools.

The Town of Brookhaven got on the same train recently when its town board passed a law on May 12 that restricts indoor smoking establishments — businesses in which tobacco in any form, including through e-cigarettes and vaporizers, or other substances are smoked indoors. New shops can now no longer open within certain distances of residential areas, schools, churches, parks or other family- or child-oriented places. They also cannot open within 1 mile of one another.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who came up with the idea, touted it as a measure to prevent kids from using drugs.

“You cannot believe how creative addicts and users are when it comes to situations like this,” she said, “what they can do and how they can manipulate this apparatus.”

Some have used hookahs, vaporizers and other tobacco devices to smoke marijuana, among other substances.

“This legislation came to pass because of what we see, what’s happening in our communities all over the place,” Bonner said. “This is a very important first step and we may take further steps as we see how this works out.”

Both the town and village laws have had their critics. In Port Jefferson, Trustee Bruce D’Abramo and other residents did not want the village interfering with the free market, which would determine how many smoke shops one neighborhood could sustain, and did not want the village policing people’s heath. They compared the smoke shops to the numerous bars in downtown Port Jefferson.

And Alex Patel, who works at Rocky Point Smoke & Vape Shop, said the town law might have little payoff because parents buy devices for their kids or the kids shop online — those under 21 may still get what they are looking for.

“Online, I see people buying left and right,” Patel said about vaporizers and similar devices. “It’s much cheaper online because they’re buying in bulk.”

But the town law also had community support: “When I think of these [smoking] lounges I think of heroin dens, something I read about and saw movies about when I was a child and scared the heck out of me,” Jeff Kagan, of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, said May 12. “I believe that we don’t really know what these dens are all about or what’s really going to go on in these facilities. We don’t know the long-term impact.”

Alex Petroski contributed reporting.

Expensive tastes
On Sept. 11, Suffolk County police arrested a 25-year-old woman from Bellport and charged her with petit larceny. Cops said on May 19 she stole six Prada and seven Versace sunglasses from Macy’s in Smith Haven Mall in Smithtown. On April 10 they said she stole various items from Victoria’s Secret in the mall. She was arrested at the 3rd Precinct at 3 p.m.

Charging through
Cops arrested a 34-year-old man from Commack on Sept. 9 for intentionally driving a 2013 Toyota Corolla into a framed metal outdoor canopy at 60 Veterans Highway in Commack on Aug. 26 at 4:45 a.m. He was arrested at the 4th precinct at 9:10 a.m. and charged with third-degree criminal mischief for property damage valuing less than $250.

Sunglasses saboteur sacked
Police arrested a 30-year-old woman from East Patchogue on Sept. 9 at the 4th Precinct at around 8 p.m. and charged her with third-degree grand larceny for previous incidents. On June 11 at 5:45 p.m. cops said she stole six pairs of Prada, three pairs of Bulgari and one pair of Tiffany sunglasses from Macy’s in Smith Haven Mall. On May 19 at 8:11 p.m., she stole six Prada and seven Versace pairs of sunglasses at Macy’s.

Unlicensed driving
A 55-year-old man from East Farmingdale was arrested on Sept. 9 and charged with grand larceny in the third degree. Cops said he was driving a Ford F-150 on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset at 6:30 p.m. with a revoked or suspended license. He also stole a 2003 Keystone trailer at 6:30 p.m. on July 26.

I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby
On Sept. 12 a pair of Commack teens were arrested and charged with petit larceny. Cops said a 17-year-old man and a 16-year-old woman were arrested at 4:05 p.m. for stealing assorted merchandise from a Walmart in Commack.

Card thief caught
Cops arrested a 50-year-old Central Islip woman on Sept. 13 and charged her with petit larceny for using someone else’s debit card to withdraw money on multiple occasions. Police said the first incident was on July 15 at 1:50 p.m. and the second was on July 20 at 1:48 p.m. She was arrested at 11:05 p.m. at the 4th Precinct.

Bling begone
Two residents from Terri Drive in Smithtown reported a stolen engagement ring and band from their home between 1:30 and 2 p.m. on Sept. 11.

Home ransacked
An unknown person entered a home on Maplelawn Drive in Smithtown and stole assorted items including computers, necklaces, rings, perfumes and colognes between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sept. 11.

Uphill battle
Police pulled over a 59-year-old Setauket man who was speeding down Route 25A near The Hills Drive in a 2006 Ford on Sept. 13 to find he was intoxicated. He was arrested for driving while ability impaired. It was the man’s first offense.

No toking for you
A 19-year-old man from Miller Place was arrested on Sept. 10 for selling tobacco to a minor. Police said the incident happened on Route 25A in Port Jefferson Station.

Diamond in the rough
On Sept. 13 police arrested a 29-year-old man from Port Jefferson Station for criminal contempt. Police said the man went into the Kohl’s in East Setauket and stole jewelry.

Welcome home
Around 5:45 a.m. on Sept. 12, a 27-year-old man from Brookhaven in a 2002 Ford drove into a house on Michael Court in Centereach. The man was driving while ability impaired and police arrested him at the scene of the crash.

Hit-and-run times two
Police said a 19-year-old female from Farmingdale was arrested for leaving the scene of a Sept. 12 car crash, after the woman was driving along Portion Road in Ronkonkoma and hit two vehicles before fleeing the scene. Police arrested her soon afterward on Route 25A in Selden.

No paz here
A 36-year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested on Main Street in Port Jefferson on Sept. 11 around 4:54 a.m. for criminal mischief, after police said the man broke a window at La Paz restaurant. Police said the defendant is the same man who was found in possession of cocaine and threatened a group of people with a razor blade the day before, but a police spokesperson was unsure if he was arrested that day for criminal possession of a controlled substance and menacing, as it was not documented.

Electrical enthusiast
On Sept. 10, police arrested a 35-year-old man and a 26-year-old man from East Patchogue. They were each charged with petit larceny — the older man after stealing electrical switches and wall plates from the Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook, and the younger man when he tried to return the stolen merchandise to the store.

Petrus pants
Police said an unidentified man took a bottle of Petrus Bordeaux wine from Hamlet Wines & Liquors store in East Setauket on Sept. 12, putting the bottle down his pants and fleeing the store on foot.

Unique break
Police said an unknown person broke the front window of Unique Cleaners in Miller Place on Sept. 10 at 4:31 a.m. Nothing was stolen from the store.

Denny’s disappearance
Around 1 a.m. on Sept. 12 a woman reported that she had lost her handbag at the Denny’s in Centereach Mall. The handbag contained jewelry and money.

Disturber of the peace
On Sept. 10 around 4:45 a.m., a man reported that an unknown person had stolen money from his 2013 Toyota, located on Peace Court in Selden.

Giving and taking
Between Sept. 10 at 5 p.m. and Sept. 11 at 8:30 a.m., an unknown person broke into a clothing donation bin and stole clothes. Police said the door of the bin, in a parking lot near Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station, was broken.

Vehicle violation
A woman reported that a rear window on a 2003 Chevrolet Suburban was vandalized on Sept. 13 around 2 a.m. on Maple Road in Rocky Point.

Making a dry clean getaway
Police said an unknown person broke into a dry cleaner on North Country Road in Mount Sinai. The person threw a rock on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. and broke the front window of the business and stole cash.

Phony caller
An unidentified person on Hearthside Drive in Mount Sinai received a phone call from a scammer on Sept. 8. The person who called the victim wanted money but it was unclear what for.

Roll credits
On Sept. 12 a man and a woman reported that a pocketbook, which contained a Social Security card, was taken from a 2009 Dodge Charger. Clothes were also stolen from the car. Police said the car was parked in the AMC Loews movie theater parking lot on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook.

One man plus one man equals oh man
Two 22-year-old men were arrested in front of the Paramount in Huntington on Sept.11 for engaging in a fistfight on a public sidewalk, within ten minutes of each other. One man, from Huntington Station, resisted arrest when he was commanded by officers to stop fighting and then refused to place his hands behind his back. He was also found to have marijuana in his possession. He was charged with disorderly conduct, fighting and violent behavior at 11:20 p.m. The other man, from Mastic Beach, punched and wrestled with officers and fled the scene on foot for a short time until police caught up to him. He was arrested at 11:29 p.m. and charged with disorderly conduct, fighting, engaging in violent behavior, and intent to cause physical injury to a police officer.

Slice, slice baby
Police arrested a homeless man on Sept. 12 at 156 Depot Road in Huntington Station for attacking a man with a knife. The man suffered lacerations on his neck and required medical attention at 5:05 p.m., and the attacker was arrested a short time later. The man was charged for assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon.

Don’t take me out to the ball game
A 21-year-old man from Huntington Station was arrested on Sept. 11 for an incident police said occurred earlier. On Sept. 6 at 4:10 a.m. on Broadway and Biltmore Circle in Huntington Station cops said he struck a man multiple times with a baseball bat and the victim was taken to Huntington Hospital. He also slashed a second man with a knife. The assailant was charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon.

Drive-through
At 7:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, a 26-year-old woman from Huntington Station was arrested for causing damage with her vehicle. She was driving a 2006 Nissan Altima on New York Avenue in Huntington when she struck a parked 2002 Lexus that was unattended. She failed to stop afterwards and was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and property damage.

Someone’s not on Nationwide’s side
At Nationwide Insurance on High Street in Huntington on Sept. 10, an unknown person entered the location at 4:00 p.m. and stole two payroll checks.

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs the county’s tobacco age law. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Health Commissioner James Tomarken encouraged residents who use tobacco to break their addiction through the “Learn to Be Tobacco Free” program.

“We are promoting good health to all residents in Suffolk County,” Bellone said. “For those who are addicted to tobacco or nicotine products, we urge them to get the support they need to prevent illnesses that are caused by tobacco.”

Smithtown’s session was scheduled at Smithtown Public Library, 1 North Country Road on Mondays from 6 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 21, 28, Oct. 5, 19, 26 and Nov. 2.

The classes are free to Suffolk County residents, though there is a nominal fee for medication for medically eligible participants.

“Breaking an addiction to nicotine can be very difficult,” Tomarken said. “Studies have shown that smokers who try to quit smoking using a combination of behavioral support and medicine are three times more likely to be successful than those who try to stop smoking without support.”

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Danielle and Nicole Mogyorosi are using their Smithtown roots to bring their new business into the mainstream. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The cirkusz is coming to town.

Smithtown sisters Danielle and Nicole Mogyorosi just launched a new line of vapor juice flavors, named Cirkusz Grrl, that reflect their family background with the circus. Frank Mogyorosi, their father, moved from Hungary to America with the Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1950s.

Nicole Mogyorosi has friends in the vapor industry, and they invited the sisters to come and test different flavors in their lab.

“That’s when the light bulb went off,” Danielle Mogyorosi said. “We realized we should make a line to pay homage to our background.”

Nicole, born in 1981, and Danielle, born in 1983, traveled the United States with their family in the circus until they were 7 years old. The family then moved to Smithtown.

“We grew up around candy apples and carnie cones,” Nicole Mogyorosi said. “I used to eat funnel cakes for breakfast, so we went into this idea with flavors in mind. We wanted to perfect them into exactly what we remembered.”

Danielle and Nicole Mogyorosi are using their Smithtown roots to bring their new business into the mainstream. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Danielle and Nicole Mogyorosi are using their Smithtown roots to bring their new business into the mainstream. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The sisters said for customers it’s very popular because it’s a throwback, and brings people back to that time of being a kid and enjoying circus.

Currently Cirkusz Grrl has five flavors: carousel cotton candy, jumbo popcorn, big top candy apple, sideshow dough and carnie cone cherry ice.

Both sisters now reside in Maryland, where Cirkusz Grrl was born. They stumbled upon vaping after many failed attempts to quit smoking. They tried nicotine patches and gum, hypnotism and going cold turkey but nothing worked.

After trying vaporizers, they have both been cigarette-free for months.

“It’s gotten me there,” Nicole Mogyorosi said. “It helps to still have the hand to mouth, that oral fixation.” Danielle added that it was the best alternative for her, and she already feels the difference.

Vaping describes the act when using an electronic cigarette, which is a battery-powered vaporizer that simulates the feel of smoking, but with no tobacco in it. The nicotine in it is in liquid form, and can be adjusted.

“The ultimate goal is to get to zero amount of nicotine — it’s a way of weaning down,” Nicole Mogyorosi said.

The social aspect of vaping is another reason why they were interested in the business.

“Vaping is its own community — it’s fun and I’ve really enjoyed it,” Danielle Mogyorosi said.

There are many vaping lounges where customers can sample different flavors while socializing.

Xhale Custom Vapors, of 335 Smithtown Blvd. in Ronkonkoma is having a grand reopening this month, and is hosting Cirkusz Grrl’s first in-store launch party on Aug. 29 at 2 p.m.

“Vaping is becoming a seriously large subculture,” Ray Swartz, general manager for Xhale’s two Long Island locations said in a statement. “In welcoming such an awesome line as Cirkusz Grrl as our first major event guests, we are hoping to set a precedent for more events, new flavors and products.”

Nicole Mogyorosi has been a graphic designer for the past 10 years, and Danielle has worked in hospitality. They feel that together they bring all the skills necessary to run a successful company.

“It’s been amazing so far. We know each other’s work ethic, and it’s fun,” the sisters said together.

Town board to host public hearings on new proposals

The town board will consider a ban on e-cigarettes at town beaches and playgrounds. File photo by Nick Scarpa

Huntington Town residents next week will be able to weigh in on a proposal to ban e-cigarettes from town beaches and on another measure that would expedite cleanup of graffiti-ridden properties in the town.

The proposals will be the subject of two separate public hearings on June 9 at 7 p.m at Town Hall.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) has introduced the new legislation to ban e-cigarettes from town beaches and playgrounds. Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) hopes to improve on old legislation to speed up the process of graffiti removal from both residential and commercial properties.

Berland’s proposal enhances existing graffiti cleanup laws. Under the new provisions, residents of Huntington would have 10 days after they receive a summons from the town to remove the graffiti from their property, according to Berland. After the 10 days expire, the town can send Huntington Town General Services Department employees in to remove the graffiti. The resident will then be charged with the cleanup fee and a $250 administrative fee.

If the owner fails to pay the cleanup bill within 30 days, the property will be added to a graffiti blight inventory, which will cost homeowners $2,500 and owners of commercial properties $5,000. Owners who fail to pay the bill will have the bill become a lien on their property.

The time frame is even shorter for graffiti that contains hate speech. The owner has a total of three days to remove it after getting a notice of violation before the town takes action.

“I think it’s important to protect our neighborhood from unwanted graffiti,” Berland said in a phone interview.

Berland has worked with graffiti cleanup for years and is now trying to create legislation that amends the town code so that the cleanups are routine.

Cuthbertson has introduced legislation to add electronic cigarettes to the list of products banned from town beaches and playgrounds. This list already includes tobacco and herbal cigarettes, pipes and cigars.

In 2010 a county law restricted the sale of e-cigarettes to those old enough to buy tobacco. Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) sponsored legislation to ban vaping, or the act of smoking an e-cigarette, at county parks and benches in late 2012.

Many residents in Huntington approached Cuthbertson asking for legislation to end vaping on public grounds, since they have concerns with being exposed to secondhand smoke. However, this new law, if adopted, would not include private property, as well as the parking lots at beaches. New no-smoking signs would go up at each public beach and playground.

In an email through his legislative aide, Cuthbertson said he believes this legislation is important on a public health level.

“The extensive amount of medical research and published studies support our desire to protect the health and welfare of those at our town beaches from secondhand smoke,” the councilman said.