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New Nassau County vaping law takes effect

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With the new year underway, local shops in the Five Towns are no longer able to sell flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine products. Despite this, some residents still have concerns that minors will have access to the products.

Under the law that went into effect on Jan. 1, only flavorless and tobacco, mint or menthol flavored e-cigarette and liquid nicotine products can be sold in the county. Fines for carrying flavored vapes range from $500 to $1,000 for first offenses, and $1,000 to $2,000 for subsequent offenses. The law was approved by the County Legislature on Nov. 25. County Executive Laura Curran signed it on Dec. 15.

In a Jan. 15 Facebook post, Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association President David Friedman observed the change at a local convenience store. “Checked the In n’ Out in Hewlett today,” he said. “All of the candy/fruit flavored vaping garbage that attracts kids was removed from the store.” The In n’ Out shop is at 300 Mill Road off West Broadway. 

Friedman noted that this has not been an issue with local shops since the law went into effect. He said he just wanted to update residents. “I’m involved with the Five Towns Drug & Alcohol Coalition,” he said. “If you’ve ever seen a teenager gasping for air in the emergency room due to vaping, it’s heartbreaking.” The coalition involves multiple organizations that seeks to help combat drug and alcohol abuse.  

According to the state’s Department of Health, there were 230 illnesses and two deaths related to e-cigarette usage in 2019. NYDOH also listed certain statistics on e-cigarette usage. “The New York State smoking rate among youth is at a record low (4.3 percent, but their e-cigarette use doubled between 2014 and 2016 (from 10.5 percent to 20.6 percent),” the website stated. “More than half of high school students and young adults who smoke cigarettes also use e-cigarettes.”

Hewlett resident Steve Caesar said that while he is content with the ban on the flavored products, he noted that a black market could develop with these nicotine products. “Removing these products from open establishments is only going to make them go to ‘less reputable salespeople’ where the chemicals are far more dangerous,” he said. “I applaud any action taken to lessen the availability but without a complete overhaul of the enforcement issue, this is a very slight improvement.” Caesar added that taking away the products can have a bad chain reaction. “If you take away all of the legal options, they end up having to buy garbage,” he said. “Then everyone pays for that.” 

Another Hewlett resident, Gili Vaknine said that the selling of alcohol to minors still occurs. “It’s good that the vaping products are gone,” Vaknine said. “But the alcohol is still there and they are more than happy to sell it to minors.” In N’ Out declined to comment.

Friedman said he is works not only with the coalition, but also the Nassau County Police Department to help mitigate underage drinking and drug use. “We can’t remove the alcohol and nicotine products completely,” he said. “However the NCPD and the coalition are working on enforcement of laws preventing minors from purchasing them.”

Have an opinion about vaping laws? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.