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Hookah bars, vape stores may be restricted in North Hempstead

Vape Shop Smoke Stax, in New Hyde Park,

Vape Shop Smoke Stax, in New Hyde Park, on March 27, 2016. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The town of North Hempstead may join a growing list of municipalities getting tougher on vape stores and hookah bars.

On Tuesday, the town board will hold a public hearing for a proposed law to restrict indoor smoking businesses to industrial and business zones, which would effectively bar them from opening near homes and public places like churches and schools.

“We’re not banning vape stores or smoke shops, we’re just regulating where they can be located,” said Town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, who represents Port Washington.

The new law would require prospective applicants of vape stores and hookah bars to obtain a conditional-use permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals. Existing businesses legal in every other respect would not be affected, De Giorgio said.

The town has “no way of knowing how many stores would be grandfathered by this legislation,” which would also include cigar stores with smoking lounges, town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said.

A handful of Long Island municipalities have tightened local laws regarding indoor smoking establishments. In North Hempstead, this includes the villages of Great Neck, Great Neck Estates, Williston Park and New Hyde Park.

In Suffolk County, the villages of Patchogue, Port Jefferson and Lindenhurst have also opted for restrictions.

North Hempstead’s proposed law is modeled after one passed in May by the town of Brookhaven, said Senior Deputy Town Attorney Mitchell Pitnick. The town of Islip similarly regulates indoor smoking establishments.

North Hempstead is also considering going a step further than other municipalities by regulating e-cigarette advertising, De Georgio said. The legislation is still being drafted, but it may limit the size and display of signage. A public hearing will likely take place in September.

“The goal is to make it so that children aren’t enticed to see the advertising,” Pitnick said.

The number of high school students reporting use of e-cigarettes in a 30-day period rose significantly over a four-year span, from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced a ban on e-cigarette sales to individuals 18 and under. E-cigarette producers must now apply to sell their wares with the FDA and be subject to FDA inspection. In New York State, liquid nicotine found in e-cigarettes must be packaged in child-resistant bottles, and businesses must display clear signage prohibiting sales to minors.

Proponents of vaping say that e-cigarettes offer a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes, and can serve as a useful aid in quitting smoking. Detractors often cite nicotine’s insidious effects on the developing brain, and also state that e-cigarettes could act as a gateway product to smoking conventional cigarettes.

North Hempstead’s public hearing on zoning restrictions is July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 220 Plandome Rd. in Manhasset.

Keep away

North Hempstead’s proposed law would prohibit indoor smoking establishments within 500 feet of any residence and within 1,000 feet of a:

  • Church or other place of religious worship
  • School
  • Park
  • Playground or playing field
  • Library
  • Hospital
  • Similar “semi-public places of general congregation”
  • Tutoring center
  • Dance studio or other instruction programs


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