Town of Oyster Bay Contemplates Vaping Restrictions

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Proponents say that e-cigarettes aid in smoking cessation.
(Roland Mey | Pixabay)

The Town of Oyster Bay is mulling restricting any new vape shops or hookah lounges to its light industrial areas.

In addition, under the proposed new law, new establishments will not be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and places of worship. Existing shops would be grandfathered in, providing, in the words of assistant town attorney Elizabeth Faughan, “that they have the proper permits and all the proper certifications that are required as of now. Any businesses that currently exist or are currently established under this new zoning provision will be required to have notices at the point of sale indicating the [negative] consequence of the use of those products.”

She added, “These provisions will also apply to businesses that have a significant or substantial portion of their premises devoted to the sale of such items. That’s defined as 40 percent of gross floor area or 40 percent of their gross income. Then these provisions will be applicable.”

Faughan was speaking at a public hearing May 9 to get public input, and numerous people weighed in. The town has not yet finalized the law.

Mary Shannon of Bay Shore read a letter on behalf of Eric Kaplan of Vaporsaurus in North Massapequa. Kaplan said he was a member of the local chamber, supported the fire department and ran a “mom-and-pop” store.

“Our entire focus has been on adult smoking cessation since the day we opened,” Kaplan wrote, adding that vaping was the means by which he and other loved ones quit the far more harmful cigarette smoking habit.

“We agree that there’s a warranted concern regarding youth vaping,” he continued. “We go out of our way to make sure we are not participants in the problem. I feel that this law would be discriminatory in practice, eliminating small, responsible, independently-owned, smoking cessation-focused establishments. I believe I understand the pressure you are under to serve the needs and the concerns of the constituents, and the obligation you have to look after their best interests. I feel we are participants in that, and not a threat to it.”

Kaplan went on to warn of the financial impact of the law, which could ultimately force him to close, with ruinous consequences.

Cathy Samuels, project director of Massapequa Takes Action Coalition, said she favored zoning future vape shops away from downtowns and main streets. She cited statistics showing an alarming rise in youth taking up electronic cigarettes.

“We thank you for making the change to the environment,” Samuels said. “This is the kind of change we need to protect the future of our children’s health.”

She urged the board to make use of her organization as a resource as it navigates the bill.

“No one wants to take anyone’s business away, but please think about the health of our children,” she concluded to applause.

More speakers, representing vape shops or the industry, spoke against the law.

Cheryl Richter, executive director of the New York State Vapor Association, said her organization worked closely with Governor Cuomo’s office to add regulations that were signed April 1 in the 2020 state budget bill. The association advocated for the licensing of all retailers to sell vapor products, stricter fines and penalties and other regulations to ensure that no one under 21 at the more than 700 vape shops will be sold a product.

“By unfairly forcing any vape shops to [industrial] areas of the town, you’re sending a signal to adults that vaping is seedy, dirty and bad for them,” she noted, adding that vape shops, unlike gas stations, convenience stores, bodegas and other retailers who can sell e-cigarette products, have very few citations of selling to underage youth.

Supervisor Joseph Saladino vowed to find the balance, as the town continues to craft its legislation, between making it convenient for adults to buy or use vaping products while also taking into account the residents “who are also making it loud and clear their desires on the issue. By staying open minded, we hope to have legislation that deals with the issue in a way that’s respectful of all.”

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