Tags Posts tagged with "Hookah"

Hookah

by -
0 2750
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.

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.

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

During last week’s Rocky Point Drug Forum, Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced her new step to combat drug use, with a ban regarding hookah lounges and smoke and vape shops in Brookhaven Town.

If the town approves and implements the councilwoman’s proposal, prospective shop owners cannot establish their businesses within 1,000 feet of family- or child-oriented institutions or various public places. These locations include educational and religious facilities; non-degree granting schools, like ballet and karate studios; and swimming pools. The ban won’t apply to existing lounges and shops that have proper permits and certificates of occupancy.

The idea isn’t simply to deter students from purchasing items from the store, but also to prevent them from using these devices, or similar items, to smoke drugs like marijuana. During last week’s forum, John Venza, vice president of Adolescent Services for Outreach, said some vaporizers can accommodate various forms of marijuana including dabs, a wax-like form of the drug that has higher levels of THC.

According to Venza, marketing has also changed over the years to appeal to a younger audience. Bonner not only agreed with Venza, but went a step further.

“We all know that those attractive signs that lure the kids in are the very same reason the government banned Camel advertising,” Bonner said during last week’s forum. She added that parents need to keep a closer eye on their kids by observing their social media accounts, going through their phones and having family dinners.

Jane-Bonner-Rocky-Point-Drug_2016_02_barkleyw
Councilwoman Jane Bonner announces her proposed ban at the Rocky Point Drug Forum last week. Photo by Giselle Barkley

For the Rocky Point school district and community alike, fighting substance abuse is a top priority. But according to Rocky Point Superintendent of Schools Michael Ring, the fight is an uphill battle with new devices on the market.

“One of the things that works against us is the emerging technology that makes it easier for students to be brought in and grow that into abuse,” Ring said.

But Rocky Point Smoke & Vape Shop employee Alex Patel said the ban might be a good idea with little reward. According to the Rocky Point resident and father of two, parents have purchased vaporizers and accessories for their children. Patel said the shop isn’t legally allowed to sell to residents who are under 21 years old, but this isn’t the only way students are acquiring the devices.

“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. So what they’re paying in the store $50, online, they can get it for $20.”

He added that it’s also easier for students to purchase these items online because these sites don’t verify the buyer’s age. In light of this, Patel continued saying the proposed ban won’t stop these underage residents from finding what they’re looking for.

North Shore Youth Council Executive Director Janene Gentile said she hasn’t seen an increase in these shops near her organization, but said the youth council works “with the legislators around holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable” as well.

“I believe in this bill,” Gentile added.

Residents can voice their opinions regarding the ban at the May 12 public hearing at 6 p.m. in Brookhaven Town Hall.

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

Taking a stand against what some see as troubling business activity and the undesirable type of people it attracts, the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees approved a law Monday night that effectively bans new hookah-selling shops and tattoo parlors.

Residents and village officials have been vocal lately about the abundance of shops on Main Street selling hookahs and products related to the smoking apparatuses, with some saying the stores attract a criminal element and sell unhealthy products. More than a year after a similar yet simpler proposal was abandoned, the board has amended its zoning code to restrict those businesses, as well as tattoo parlors and adult establishments like topless bars, to the Light Industrial I-2 District.

The village’s four current hookah shops will not be shuttered under the new law because they represent preexisting uses, but the measure all but bans future hookah shops, hookah parlors, tattoo parlors and adult businesses, as there are only two properties in the entire village in the I-2 zoning district — on Columbia Street — and both are already occupied.

Board members approved the law at their Monday meeting with a 3-2 vote, with Trustees Bruce Miller and Bruce D’Abramo in opposition.

D’Abramo was the most vocal opponent of the proposal’s previous iteration, which would have simply banned hookah parlors — lounges where people can smoke tobacco products using a hookah. He repeated a stance at the meeting that he held through that last proposal as well as through discussion about the new law: that the government should let the free market regulate legally operating businesses.

“I believe that the marketplace cannot support four of these places in the village,” he said. “I think it will serve only to make our code book thicker and therefore dilute its effectiveness. … I believe the marketplace will do the same thing that it did when we had a yogurt place across the street from another yogurt place. … And it closed.”

Although there were more calls from residents opposed to the village interfering with the market the first time around — with some even comparing hookah establishments to the village’s numerous bars that are allowed to operate — D’Abramo did not receive as much resident support recently.

Over the last few board meetings, concerned parents and neighbors have called upon the village to take action against hookah-selling shops, citing fears that they will sell paraphernalia and dangerous substances to underage patrons and attract loiterers and drug dealers. Resident Nancy Cerullo said Monday she is concerned about “the culture that it is bringing.”

When residents asked about banning the shops outright, officials pointed out that would be unconstitutional, but said they could restrict the locations where they operate.

“As long as you allow it to be somewhere,” Mayor Margot Garant said.

With the discussion of the law dominated by comments about hookah shops, Barbara Sabatino, a resident, business owner and planning board member, questioned whether tattoo parlors should be lumped in with those establishments in the new restrictions. She noted that tattoos are becoming more mainstream, particularly among young adults.

The Board of Trustees narrowly voted to approve the law moments after closing the public hearing.