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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.

Three Village Central School District becomes the first school district in New York to join a national lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul. TBR News Media file photo

Three Village Central School District is joining the fight against vaping devices.

In a letter from Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and Board of Education President William Connors, the district announced it became the first school district in New York to join a national lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul.

“As educators, it is our duty to protect the health and safety of our students, and we believe this company is compromising those efforts while simultaneously disrupting the educational process by marketing to teens,” Pedisich and Connors wrote.

Officials stated in the letter that legal fees will be covered by the firms representing the parties in the suit and will not come from district taxes.

The district officials said in the letter vaping devices are easy for teenagers to hide and use. 

“This epidemic, while a national one, has had a direct and grave impact on our local school community,” school officials said. “As a district, we have needed to divert resources and deploy new ones to combat the problem of teen vaping.”

Three Village has installed devices to detect vaping, created prevention programs, adjusted health curricula to focus on the dangers of vaping, created a new student assistant counselor position to focus on prevention and treatment, and embraced new disciplinary actions and a districtwide zero-tolerance policy on vaping, according to the letter.

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 officials.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for children, teens and young adults, as most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful substances. According to the agency, highly-addictive nicotine can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.

As at Oct. 8, the CDC has reported 1,080 vaping-associated illnesses in the United States 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 related to vape products in New York.

 

Vapes, or electronic cigarettes, are becoming more and more popular among young people, despite a lack of research about the health effects. Photo by John Petroski

As a New York State ban on flavored e-cigarettes goes into effect Oct. 4, community members and officials on Long Island are hopeful that this will be a good first step in curbing youth smoking. 

The ban comes in the wake of several deaths experts have linked to e-cigarettes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 450 cases of lung illness nationwide have been associated with e-cigarette products containing nicotine or THC. A number of those cases have occurred on Long Island. 

Vape Shops across Suffolk say the new law will hurt their businesses. File photo by Giselle Barkley

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said he believes the ban is a great first step in limiting access of addictive products to young people. 

“I think [the ban] is wonderful news,” he said. “We have seen a disturbing trend, we know this stuff is not good for you.”

Spencer cautioned that they have to be prepared for the unintended consequences of such a ban, particularly he said he wants to make sure that there are support systems and resources available to addicted individuals who may seek help. 

“I want to make sure there are plans for parents who may have a child who is addicted [to e-cigarettes],” he said. “I will be working with the health department on a plan to deal with this.”

Despite the ban, Spencer believes there’s more to do to curb e-cigarette use and vaping, pointing to the ubiquitous e-cigarette product Juul as another concern. 

“One Juul pod is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes,” he said. “You have kids smoking two or three of these pods.”

The legislator also mentioned that there are a number of loopholes on the state and federal level that he feels still need to be addressed. 

There has been an increase in use of e-cigarettes in middle and high school students in recent years. Port Jefferson School District in particular is hosting a vape seminar at its next school board meeting Oct. 15. District officials are hopeful that the ban prevents further teens from thinking of vaping.  

“Any step in the right direction is a good step,” said Paul Casciano, superintendent of the Port Jefferson School District. “Unfortunately, people, including teens, were duped into believing that vaping was a safe alternative to smoking. There is still much more to be done including discussions about peer pressure and the fear of not fitting into a group.”

Casciano said the district has provided information and held numerous presentations on vaping for students and parents. Last December, the district took part in a county pilot program called Vape Out where high school students watched a presentation on the health hazards of vaping and were given advice on how to refuse a hit. They then shared the lessons they learned with other classmates and students in the middle school. 

“No singular program or curriculum is going to eliminate vaping among teens however constant and consistent messages from many voices may begin to stem the tide.” Casciano said.  

“Any step in the right direction is a good step.”

— Paul Casciano

Vape shop and small business owners have long been opposed to legislation on the sale of e-cigarettes. Back in December 2018, at a public hearing to discuss legislation that would have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in Suffolk County, owners said the issue isn’t the flavors but rather an issue of access and enforcement of the sale of tobacco products to individuals over the age of 21. 

Alex Patel, owner of the Rocky Point Smoke and Vape Shop, is concerned about the looming ban on flavored e-cigarettes as it is a popular item purchased at vape shops. 

 “Of course, it is going to affect our business,” he said. “We could close down.” 

Dr. Rachel Boykan, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stony Brook Medicine, said while she is supportive of the new ban, she thought it would be better if it included menthol. 

“We know that youth are attracted to these products because of the flavors; this should decrease their appeal,” she said. 

In addition, Boykan mentioned some ideas to further curb youth smoking.    

“We need to regulate advertising, which teens respond strongly to and which is ubiquitous and unregulated, compared with advertising of cigarettes, which is restricted,” she said. “We need to decrease availability by including e-cigarettes in Tobacco 21 legislation … include e-cigs in the same indoor air laws as combusted tobacco.” 

Boykan said she and her colleagues have dealt with many children who vape and they try to educate them on the harm associated with it. 

“We try to educate them about the risks of the flavorings and heavy metals such as copper, in the aerosol, and the recent severe lung illnesses and deaths — which we don’t yet understand,” she said.

The professor provided some advice to parents if they think their child may be vaping. 

“They may smell a fruity smell, they may notice signs of nicotine addiction such as agitation, anxiety, or if they are using marijuana as well,” she said. “The best approach is to establish trust, ask without judgment and be supportive if a child admits to having a nicotine addiction — and take them to their pediatrician for help.”

Suffolk County Police Department conducted a two-week undercover sting operation on businesses that were illegally selling vaping products to minors. TBR News Media file photo

As part of a two-week undercover sting operation dubbed “Operation Vape Out,” Suffolk Police found that more than two dozen business had been illegally selling e-cigarettes and tobacco to individuals under 21.

The operation, which occurred from Sept. 4 through Sept. 18. It resulted in 32 violations issued to employees of those businesses.

“After years of a steady decline in nicotine addiction and cigarette sales, the introduction of vaporizers has reversed this positive trend so that nicotine addiction is once again on the rise,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone (D). “This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Suffolk County. In a coordinated effort with the Suffolk County Police Department and the Department of Health, a sting operation uncovered 30 establishments that allegedly sold these products to minors and arrests have been made.”

In 2014, 73 percent of high school students and 56 percent of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some local businesses that were charged with the sale of e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine to persons under 21 were:

  • VaporFi, located at 229B Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset
  • Aroma Smoke Shop, 6 East Main St., Smithtown
  • Island Wood Cigars and Vapors, located at 298 Maple Ave., Smithtown
  • James Vape Shop, located at 448 Lake Ave., Saint James

The following businesses were charged with unlawfully dealing with a child 2nddegree:

  • 76 Gas, located at 1714 New York Ave., Huntington Station
  • The Barn, located at 2020 Jericho Turnpike, East Northport
  • Hemp Clouds , located at 1515 Route 25, Selden
  • Hookah City, located at 202 Main St., Port Jefferson

“The department will continue to target the issue of vaping with increased education and enforcement efforts,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart. “We urge businesses to check IDs when selling vape products and abide by the ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes because we will continue to check for compliance.”

In addition, Bellone announced the expansion of the Health Department’s vaping prevention and intervention program, known as VAPE OUT!, by adding community youth vaping cessation classes. The program also includes peer and parent education forums and alternatives to suspension enforcement programs.

Over 200 high school students were trained as peer educators and they presented VAPE OUT! to over 1,840 middle school students, Bellone said in a statement.

 

Vaping is a new health hazard. Stock photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It is hard to believe that summer is over and another school year has begun. This year the landscape for the opening of the new school year has been marred with another mass shooting and Hurricane Dorian, which has paralyzed the south eastern part of our country.

Schools around the country are beginning a new school year with intense anxiety around gun violence and the country’s inability to come up with reasonable, effective gun safety regulations that protect people’s safety and people’s Second Amendment rights.

The lack of decisive leadership on the part of those we have elected to lead is scandalous. The lack of clarity and the profound silence from the White House is deafening and shameful. Gun safety should be a priority issue that should not be buried in the political rubble of partisan politics. People from both sides of the aisle should be able to come together and pass legislation that protects the quality of life for all Americans. If they cannot, then simply vote them out!

As an educator and mental health professional, it troubles me deeply how those who lead us are quick to blame the mentally ill for all of our mass shootings. Every mass shooter has not been mentally ill. Yes, a number have, but our system for support of those battling mental illness at best is poor and honestly is so broken and fragmented that de facto it is useless.

We have an insurance system that sets people up for failure; when it should empower people to wellness. We must address the stigma we impose on people who need help with mental health issues and/or addiction issues.

Finally, we are holding the big pharmaceutical companies accountable for fueling the opioid epidemic. Will any of those billions of dollars be directed to long-term residential treatment or will they get lost in a bureaucracy that has lost its way?

We have to have the courage to do things differently, and the new school year is an excellent opportunity to live differently. Education is a gift, and our children should learn early on what a tremendous opportunity is being given them. Attending class, doing homework and excelling should be everyone’s expectation. We need to hold our children accountable; as parents we need to collaborate with teachers and school administrators to create the most life-giving environment for all of our children to grow and excel.

We also need to be concerned about our children’s social behavior. It is troubling that a growing number of our children in junior high school through college age spend more time on social media and texting than they do on face-to-face human communication and studying.

Ask your junior high and/or high school student if he or she could give up his or her cellphone for one month. Most will tell you no! Remember life before cellphones and social media? This present generation is not learning how to effectively communicate and build healthy human relationships.

One last concern as the new school year begins — vaping, e-cigarettes — are a new health hazard. Don’t be brainwashed by advertisements to believe that e-cigarettes and vaping are an excellent deterrent to smoking. They are not! Our children are not just vaping their favorite flavors, but cannabis.

These are not social behaviors that are healthy for our teenagers and young adults to indulge in. We need to take our blinders off and do our homework if we genuinely care about our children.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Students at Earl L. Vandermuelen High School in Port Jefferson discuss the health effects of vaping. Photo from PJSD

By David Luces

With the rising use of e-cigarettes in schools, Suffolk County is looking to find ways to put the liquid genie back in its bottle.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation Dec. 20 to increase the fine for the sale of all tobacco products, including vaping products, to those under 21 years old. 

“The popularity of electronic cigarettes has exploded into mainstream culture to the point where school officials in Suffolk County have asked our public health officials for clarity and assistance in dealing with record numbers of students who are vaping on school grounds,” Bellone said in a press release.  

“Vaping has become a concern in many high schools throughout Suffolk County,”

— Paul Casciano

Along with the new legislation, in January Suffolk County officials have continued to pilot a new vaping prevention program called Vape Out. The program is currently being run in North Babylon, Hampton Bays, Port Jefferson and Bayport-Blue Point school districts. Each school district involved has the option of picking one or all three of the approaches as a way of customizing the program. 

The anti-vaping program, consists of three elements: peer-to-peer education, alternatives to suspension and  community education, according to county officials. 

Paul Casciano, the superintendent of the Port Jefferson School District, said the Suffolk County Department of Health approached them in piloting the Teens-Teaching-Teens peer education element due in part to the success of a previous peer leadership program that ran in the high school. 

Dozens of Earl. L Vandermeulen High School students took part in a full day of training Dec. 6 2018 about the health effects of vaping and nicotine. The students watched a presentation on the health hazards of vaping and were given advice on how to refuse a hit. From there, district officials said they shared the lessons they learned with other students in both the high school and Port Jefferson Middle School.

Despite being in the early stages of the program, Casciano said the response to the training from peer leaders has been positive. 

According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five high school students use e-cigarettes. One in 20 middle school students use e-cigarettes as well. 

The popularity of e-cigarettes has risen in recent years, a CDC National Youth Tobacco Survey found that e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018. 

“Vaping has become a concern in many high schools throughout Suffolk County,” the superintendent said. “Knowing the potential negative effects of vaping and developing strategies to resist pressure from others to vape is important for parents, staff, and especially students to learn.”

According to a report from BBC News, the global vape product market was valued as over $22.6 billion in 2016. 

“This is not just a phase or fad,” John Martin, supervising public health educator, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said. “When I go to these presentations, I ask middle schoolers if anyone was curious enough to smoke a cigarette — nobody raised their hand. When I asked if anyone would think about trying a mango-flavored e-cigarette, some hands came up.” 

“This is not just a phase or fad.”

— John Martin

Martin said they were winning the game in curbing cigarette use in youth but he acknowledged vaping and products like JUUL, one of the more popular brands of e-cigarettes and vape products, have led to new challenges. 

“We’ve had a long history with helping people with nicotine addiction,” said Nancy
Hemendinger, the director of Office of Health Education, Suffolk County Department of Health Services. “We need to work together to combat this issue.”

Other parts of the Vape Out programming include the alternative-to-suspension element which encourages school administrators to require students who have been reprimanded for vaping to attend a customized education intervention in lieu of school suspension. The community education element would connect parent forums with parent-teacher organizations, youth bureaus and agencies to employ a variety of educational tools .

“We need to get adults and parents to recognize these items as smoking devices,” Hemendinger said. “Also, we need to understand that these kids affected have a addiction and we need to help them — It is our job to spot these trends.”

This post was amended to correct the date of the Port Jefferson training day.

Suffolk County Legislator William "Doc" Spencer, center, stands with doctors, school officials and parents rallying in support of banning flavored e-cigarettes Dec. 13. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A legislative proposition to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and vaping liquids in Suffolk County created a frenzy, packing the county Legislature last week to argue the pros and cons.

Suffolk Legislator Dr. William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) drafted legislation that would ban the sale of all flavored vapes and e-liquids, with the exception of menthol and mint, before the Health Committee Dec. 13 for a public hearing. His proposal drew more than 75 speakers including health officials, small business owners and students.

“This is a public health emergency,” Spencer said. “We are seeing an astonishing increase in vamping among those ages 12 to 17, and to wait for the FDA or state to take action is not acceptable at the expense of more children becoming addicted.”

This is a public health emergency.” 

— William “Doc” Spencer

The legislator said studies indicate the number of children vaping in the last year has tripled, and that up to 80 percent cite flavor as the main reason. Spencer said candy and fruity flavors such as cotton candy or Cinnamon Toast Crunch paired with flashy advertising on social media is enticing young people.

“The kids don’t even have a chance,” he said.

The proposed legislation has gained momentum with letters of support from Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, Suffolk County High School Principals Association, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to Spencer.

“Studies show children try vaping and e-cigs because of the flavors and kids who use these products get addicted and are more likely to move on to combustible cigarettes, with all the health detriments we know are caused by smoking,” said Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief, a member and legislative advocate with New York Chapter 2 of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of flavoring in cigarettes. Spencer said it’s his belief the FDA will take this step with e-cigarettes next.

Ibrahim Bal, co-owner of Cloud Vapor and Smoke vape shop in Smithtown, speaks Dec. 13. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A number of small business owners spoke out against the proposed legislation stating the issues of children ages 12 to 17 vaping isn’t the flavors, but rather an issue of access and enforcement of Suffolk County’s limitation on sale of tobacco product to those over the age of 21.

“Fake IDs are the biggest bane of my existence,” said Ibrahim Bal, co-owner of Cloud Vapor and Smoke vape shop in Smithtown. “I’ve come to a point where I’ve had to turn away people who have actual IDs from [New] Jersey.”

Bal encouraged members of the Health Committee to strongly consider steeper penalties for businesses that sell e-cigarettes and vapes to those who are underage. The county’s current law states a first offense is punishable by a minimum fine of $300, with a fee of $500 to $1,500 for each subsequent infraction.

“We’re all on the same page, we don’t’ want kids vaping,” Bal said.

His brother and business partner, Semih, said the children will still be able to purchase e-cigarettes, like the popular JUUL online, and said the issue of access is a matter of responsible parenting.

“Parents need to stop buying it for their kids,” he said, citing it as a frequent occurrence.

I’m in America, you can’t tell me I can’t have a flavor.”

— Ron Diamond

His point was strongly seconded by Ron Diamond, owner of Ronjo’s Magic & Costumes in Port Jefferson Station, who said he has recently made the move into selling vape and wellness products in the last nine months. Diamond said his clientele are mature adults attracted to the diverse flavor choices available for use in larger vapor units, not the e-cigarette cartridges favored by teens.

“We have a bigger problem in America, and that’s flavored cereals,” he said. “We have a bigger problem because all the children are obese. If you are going to take away flavor from a vapor, let’s take the flavor away from luring in children to be obese with cereal and sugary, flavors in cereal.”

Diamond said he would support stricter regulation including mandating ID card scanners be installed in each store, locking down sale to vape-specific shops rather than convenience stores, and strict enforcement of identification to prevent underage sale.

“I’m in America, you can’t tell me I can’t have a flavor,” Diamond said.

Smithtown Vape and Smoke Shop. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County Police arrested a teen May 23 for selling e-liquid nicotine to a minor at a Smithtown business.

In response to community complaints, 4th Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine at nine businesses in Smithtown, Saint James, Nesconset and Ronkonkoma May 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.

A 16-year-old male employed at Suffolk Vape and Smoke Shop, located on Terry Road in Smithtown, was arrested for selling e-liquid nicotine to a minor.

The following businesses complied and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • Village Kava Bar and Smoke Shop, located on Maple Avenue in Smithtown
  • Aroma Smoke Shop, located at on East Main Street in Smithtown
  • S & V Convenience Store, located on West Main Street in Smithtown
  • Saint James Vape Shop, located at on Lake Avenue in St. James
  • VaporFi, located on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset
  • Citgo, located on Hawkins Avenue in Ronkonkoma
  • Best Express, located on Ronkonkoma Avenue in Ronkonkoma
  • Lucky Food Mart and Smoke shop, located on Lake Avenue in Saint James

The 16-year-old was charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child and violating the Suffolk County code regulating the sale of e-cigarettes, which includes e-liquid nicotine. He was issued a desk appearance ticket and scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

Planet Gas on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn. Photo from Google Maps

Suffolk County police arrested three people for selling e-liquid nicotine to minors at businesses located in the Town of Huntington.

In response to community complaints, 2nd Precinct crime section officers and representatives from Suffolk’s Department of Health Services Tobacco Regulation Enforcement Unit conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors at 11 businesses.

The following people were arrested and charged with second-degree unlawfully dealing with a child:

  • Ramazan Gurler, 49, of Deer Park, employed at Planet Gas on Pulaski Road in Greenlawn
  • Tasabbir Hossain, 25, of Ronkonkoma, employed at 110 Convenience on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station
  • Somesh Dhawan, 30, of Queens Village, employed at Evolve IV Smoke Shop on Jericho Turnpike in East Northport

The owners of the above businesses were issued a notice of violation by the county’s Department of Health.

The following businesses complied, and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • Smoke Shop, located at 6318 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Long Island Vape, located at 469A East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • Gotham Smoke & Novelty Shop, located at 681 East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • Whatever Vape Shop, located at 675 Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station
  • East Coast Psychedelics, located at 6124 Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Liquid Lyfe Vapor Shop, located at 6160 East Jericho Turnpike in Commack
  • Gulf Gas, located at 253 Broadway in Greenlawn
  • Mr. Tobacco, located at 2031 Jericho Turnpike in East Northport

The three people arrested were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on a later date.

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Fire & Ice Hookah Lounge in Smithtown is a short distance away from Paul T. Given County Park. Photo from Google Maps

By Kyle Barr

As the popularity of vaping products grows, Smithtown officials are considering ways to keep the products out of children’s hands.

Smithtown Town Board has plans to consider changing town zoning laws to restrict any store whose primary purpose is the sale of any e-liquid, vape product or indoor smoking from opening up within 1,500 feet of schools, churches or public parks in an effort to dissuade teens from using these types of products.

“For this age group, it’s very unhealthy and easily accessible,” said Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R), who helped sponsor the ordinance. “They kind of market it like candy, and they name the different flavors after candy names. So It’s very appealing to kids.”

If approved, the restriction would not be retroactive, so it won’t  affect any current  businesses near schools, parks or churches. Inzerillo said she hopes that the zoning change will effectively dissuade these shops from opening near commercial districts.

“Lucky for Smithtown, most of our parks, churches and schools all are close to our main streets,” the councilwoman said.

The town is still waiting on an environmental impact study to be completed by the state on the effect of the proposed ordinance. After that, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the town attorney may need to look at any adjustments, but he believes the ordinance will go through.

“I think it’s going to pass, yes,” Wehrheim said. “I believe having [vape and hookah shops] in a close proximity to church or a school is problematic.”

We’ve seen an increase in youth under the age of 21 who use these products, which is very concerning, because that is sometimes seen as a gateway into more serious substance use.”

— Matthew Neebe

Matthew Neebe, director at nonprofit Horizons Counseling and Education Center, said that while there have been limited long-term studies on whether or not vape products have negative health effects, he believes these products can harm children’s development.

“We’ve seen an increase in youth under the age of 21 who use these products, which is very concerning, because that is sometimes seen as a gateway into more serious substance use,” Neebe said. “I think this step a good place to start. Kids tend to participate in things that are convenient for them.”

Amar Patel, owner of Fire & Ice Hookah Lounge near Paul T. Given County Park in Smithtown, has had his own troubles with the town. His business is temporarily closed while they renovate the building to bring it into compliance with Smithtown fire codes, but he plans to reopen soon. Patel said that vape and hookah get an unfair reputation from the rest of the community.

“I don’t think [the Town of Smithtown] supports any tobacco product, smoking or anything” Patel said. “I mean my personal opinion, I would say when it comes to hookah lounges it’s more of a hang out, where you go after dinner. Almost like you are going to a cigar lounge, then go about your day.”

Patel said he believes that cigarette use should be a bigger concern than hookah lounges or vaping, stressing that he does not believe hookah use is addictive unlike
smoking cigarettes
.

The zoning ordinance is expected to be voted on at the April 26 town board meeting.