Town of Hempstead officials called for a ban on the sale of flavored e-liquids used in electronic vape devices at a Town Board meeting Sept. 3.
Elected officials and health experts said the flavored liquids target children and contribute to an epidemic among teens, who are inhaling highly addictive nicotine and harmful chemicals. The Town Board scheduled a public hearing on the matter for Sept. 24. If enacted, the local law would take effect Jan. 1, and the town would become one of the first municipalities in the state to prohibit the sale of flavored e-liquids.
“I think they should ban e-cigarettes altogether,” said Baldwinite Claudia Rotondo, executive director of the Baldwin Council Against Drug Abuse. “People think it’s a harmless way to cut down on smoking cigarettes, but it’s really not — it’s worse. E-cigarettes have more nicotine than cigarettes. They may not have as many chemicals as tobacco, but the chemicals that they do have are just as harmful, if not more so, and cause other conditions like popcorn lung.”
Rotondo said she believes that e-cigarette sales are just another way for the tobacco industry to make money, and that it is doing so without proper Food and Drug Administration research.
“It really hits me because my husband died of lung cancer — he was a three-pack-a-day smoker,” Rotondo said. “I know firsthand how disgusting smoking is. I also was a smoker, but when my husband got sick, I was like, ‘OK, really? Do I really need this? They killed my husband, do I want them to kill me?’ And I stopped.”
Democratic Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Baldwin native who now lives in Rockville Centre, joined Republican Council members Erin King Sweeney and Dennis Dunne to announce the local legislation. Gillen noted that the recent spike in teen vaping has threatened to undermine nearly two decades of decline in overall tobacco use.
“America’s largest township is fighting against an epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers that threatens the decades-long progress our communities have made in reducing youth addiction to smoking,” Gillen said in a statement. “We believe this legislation will help cut the shocking amount of e-cigarette vaping by young people and help prevent the next generation of children from falling prey to an alarming public health danger.”
Others who supported the measure included Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat of Baldwin, County Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein, Legislator Arnold Drucker, First Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Smith and advocates from Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes, an organization dedicated to combating what representatives called “the most serious adolescent public health crisis our country has faced in decades.”
Town officials said the proposed law came in response to multiple reports of lung and respiratory diseases across the United States. To date, five people have died from health issues associated with vaping, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
“For months, we have seen countless disturbing reports of young people and teenagers being hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses due to vaping,” King Sweeney said in a statement. “…We must act immediately to protect the health of our kids from the numerous and often unknown dangers associated with these highly addictive products, being used by teens in record numbers.”
The CDC said Friday that the agency has been notified of more than 450 cases of lung illnesses potentially associated with the use of e-cigarettes products. Town officials also noted that the regulation of vaping devices by the Food and Drug Administration will not be complete until 2020.
“Vaping and e-cigarette products are largely unregulated and expose a user to multiple dangerous chemicals that can cause serious harm,” Town Medical Director David Neubert said in a statement. “The long- and short-term health risks are still not fully known, but recent incidents have indicated serious and permanent lung damage may occur. These products pose a significant public health risk, and restricting their availability will save lives by reducing exposure to these harmful chemicals.”
“The fact is that teen vaping has reached an epidemic and is out of control,” Dunne said in a statement. The U.S. surgeon general “reports that the rate of high school students who vaped increased 78 percent from 2017 to 2018, and among overall youths, an over 900 percent increase from 2011 to 2015. These products are being marketed to target and addict kids, and the studies show that the flavors are one of the top draws that bring these teens in.”
Curran thanked the Town Board for pushing back against big tobacco companies. “The surge in e-cigarette use among teens and children is undeniable and alarming,” she said in a statement. “We are committed to protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and the many associated health risks that e-cigarettes bring. We must fight back against the big tobacco companies using aggressive marketing to get a whole new generation hooked on their toxic products.”
PAVE parents Dorian Fuhrman and Meredith Burkman offered their support for the measure as a step forward to protect children’s health. “Passing this flavor ban is essential to slowing the skyrocketing youth vaping epidemic, the most serious adolescent health crisis our country has faced in decades,” they said in a statement. “If passed, Hempstead would be one of the first municipalities in New York State to take decisive action against ‘Big Tobacco 2.0.’”