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Bill would outlaw smoking, vaping in Nassau public spaces

Nassau County Legis. Debra Mulè (D-Freeport) introduced legislation Friday that would ban vaping and smoking in most sections of county parks and other recreational facilities.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) on Friday filed a bill banning cigarettes, vapes and e-cigarettes from county parks, playgrounds, athletic fields and recreational facilities aimed at discouraging their use among young people and protecting others from secondhand smoke.

The legislation is the Democratic caucus' third in the past two months to address vaping. Republicans, who hold an 11-8 legislative majority in Nassau, say they will review the bill but would not say whether they would take up the measure in committee meetings. 

The bill also would join several in the region to stem the rise in popularity of vaping, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks because of its danger to public health. 

"This is just one more tool in our legislative tool belt to discourage the use of smoking and vaping products and will have the added benefits of ensuring clean air to nonsmoking park users and decrease litter in our beautiful Nassau County parks," Mulé said at a news conference in front of the county executive and legislative building in Mineola. 

Mulé was joined by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who said she looked "forward to getting this passed by the legislature and signing it into law." 

Mulé said she was surprised to learn while researching Nassau tobacco laws that traditional smoking in county parks was not legally banned. Her bill would make the ban on cigarettes, vapes and e-cigarettes a law. Currently, the smoking ban is an administrative directive, meaning it can be eliminated by the county executive. 

"We will review the bill that was just introduced this morning, as we do all legislation that is filed," said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). "However, we can pass all the laws we want, but if the laws are not being enforced they are meaningless." 

Dr. Shetal Shah, a local pediatrician who supports the bill, said about 30 percent of teens vape. He said the rise of vaping threatened to undo five decades of progress in reducing teen smoking.

"We've been in schools where principals say they spend more time talking about the dangers of vaping than they do talking about college," Shah said. "In the past two years, youth vaping has increased 78 percent. That is the single greatest increase in tobacco use that has ever been recorded by the Centers for Disease Control." 

In a legislative meeting in late May, more than a dozen health professionals spoke during the public comment period in support of county legislation to protect children from the dangers of vaping.

Also in May, Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) filed legislation to ban flavored liquids used for vaporizers, a measure that remains stalled. Another Drucker bill to prohibit vaping advertisements within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other areas where children gather was filed Sept. 5 and unanimously passed the full legislature on Sept. 23.

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