Hempstead Town Board targets vaping

Residents: But will warning signs make a difference for teens?


The Hempstead Town Board unanimously approved legislation on Sept. 20 requiring businesses to place signs at cash registers warning about the dangers of electronic aerosol delivery systems, including vapes and electronic cigarettes.

“This legislation is designed to correct the misapprehension that vaping is not hazardous to your health — it absolutely is,” said Republican Councilman Dennis Dunne, who represents Bellmore and Merrick.

Dunne said that vaping could also serve as a gateway to harder drugs. Corine Alba, who works at Levittown’s Youth Environmental Services Community Counseling, agreed, expressing support for Dunne’s bill.

“There’s not a lot of research on vaping, but there’s nicotine in it,” she said. “And nicotine is a gateway.”

Between 2011 and 2015, e-cigarette use in-creased by 900 percent among high school students, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

Dunne — who proposed the legislation — showed a sample sign, which read, “Warning: Vape products contain nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical. Vaping can be hazardous to your health.”

Health re-searchers nationwide have identified other health risks that e-cigarettes pose (see boxes, Page 3).

Although the Town Board approved the signs, some in the community were skeptical.

Tommy Baltrusitis, a Bellmore vape shop owner, has a sign at his counter letting customers know that they must be 21 to make purchases. He told the Herald last week that he did not think another sign would reduce teenage vaping, and that it was up to store owners to enforce the laws on the books.

“I’ve never sold to kids,” Baltrusitis said, adding that checking IDs is an absolute must. “Vaping is for people who want to stop smoking, not for kids who want to try it.”

Also, Felix Procacci, of Franklin Square, told Dunne at the meeting that a visual warning alone would not work. “Put your sign up, but I can tell you, it’s going to do nothing,” Procacci said.

He added that teenagers should be forced to do community service when caught by police officers for vaping in a park. “All the police does is let them off — they are not doing the enforcement of anything,” Procacci said. “Establish a law that really means something — not just putting signs up so you can put this on your campaign literature.”

Alba, however, said that she hears stories about high school students already addicted to nicotine via vaping, and that the signs — which could educate the community — “are a step in the right direction.”

“It’s so easy to get, and this is kids telling us — they can name the stores that they get it in,” she said.

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, a Seaford Republican, also thanked Dunne on Twitter, saying that parents must become aware of the dangerous and addictive substances present in vapes.

“Public awareness has significantly decreased the use of traditional cigarettes,” King Sweeney said, “and I am confident that this new legislation will help achieve that same goal with e-cigarettes.”

“My sincerest hope is that once these kids see, in black and white, that these products are dangerous to their health, they will think twice about purchasing them,” Dunne said.

The signs are expected to be in stores on Oct. 15.