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Nassau legislative panel gives initial approval to flavored e-cigarette ban 

Nassau County Legis. Arnold Drucker at the Nassau

Nassau County Legis. Arnold Drucker at the Nassau County Legislature on Monday in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Sale of flavored e-cigarette products and liquid nicotine would be banned in Nassau County under a bill given preliminary approval by Nassau legislative committees on Monday.

The bill states that e-cigarette and liquid nicotine products can only be sold in the county if they are flavorless or tobacco, mint, or menthol-flavored. Fines for a first violation range from $300 to $1,000, while fines for subsequent violations range from $500 to $1,500.

Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said the legislation was urgent, saying: "It's important for us to get out in front of this public health crisis …"
The chairwoman of the county's health and social services committee, Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville), said it's "very, very sad to see that our children younger and younger … are vaping today … very, very scary."

On Sept. 17, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State had implemented a ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and nicotine e-liquids after the Public Health and Health Planning Council, a policymaking board, voted on emergency regulations. But the regulations have been on hold since Thursday, after the Appellate Division, New York’s midlevel appeals court, granted a request from an e-cigarette industry group's request for a stay.

The court's order prevents the statewide ban from taking effect until a lower court reviews the request for a temporary injunction.

While proponents of e-cigarette bans have decried the health hazards of e-cigarettes, critics argue that such measures make it more difficult for adults looking to quit cigarettes.

"Flavored bans will do nothing but send adult, ex-smokers back to cigarettes and create massive new black and gray markets that will not embrace any effective means of preventing underage usage," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a Stratford, Connecticut-based nonprofit that Conley says advocates for sensible regulation of vaping products.

Tony Abboud, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Vapor Technology Association, said in a statement, "we stand ready to work with Nassau County on thoughtful and effective regulations that restrict youth access, preserve flavored alternatives for adult smokers seeking to quit and allow legal and responsible vape small business owners the ability to continue to operate in a regulated market selling to adult consumers who rely on their access to these life-changing products."

Drucker said he did not think the court injunction on the state ban would hold up in the long run but Nassau's legislation would still go into effect in the meantime. "I believe that New York State will prevail in court and that injunction will be lifted. But there's going to be a gap … Our law will go into effect immediately," he said. 

Also Monday, legislative committees voted for Nassau County to permanently fund tuition assistance for volunteer fire firefighters, ambulance corps, and auxiliary police officers, at Nassau Community College. 

The committee also accepted $800,000 from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to collect and analyze groundwater from monitoring wells in the county's three aquifer systems: upper Glacial, Lloyd, and Magothy. 

In the past, Nassau had enough staff to collect the samples, but over time and through staff attrition, the county did not have enough staff to conduct the groundwater sampling required to maintain a water quality database, said Brian Schneider, deputy county executive for Parks and Public Works. 

The DEC money will pay for the U.S. Geological Survey to collect samples from the wells from the county's groundwater observation well network, and has a laboratory to analyze the samples, Schneider said.

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