Smokers in Islip may need to toke at home from now on — the town, citing the risks of secondhand smoke, has passed a new law to rein in smoking on public property.
The Islip board voted 5-0 on Tuesday to implement legislation that would prohibit smoking and vaping tobacco and cannabis on town-owned properties and at town-sponsored events outside of designated areas. Offenders may be fined between $250 and $1,000 per violation.
The legislation — the town's most extensive regulations of smoking yet — was prompted by complaints about smoking at Islip parks and beaches, and the legalization of recreational cannabis at the state level, Islip supervisor Angie Carpenter said before passing the resolution.
“This really codifies something that was in place already, but with the proliferation of vaping and the approval from the state on cannabis smoking — though we have, as a town, opted out of the retail sale of it — it still is out there,” she said.
“We’ve gotten many, many complaints and concerns, especially in areas like our parks and beaches where young people reside, that there is smoking and vaping, so we are tightening it up.”
The town did not elaborate on the complaints received.
Some state smoking laws impact local municipal properties and can be "confusing," town officials said. Islip's local law is meant to "clarify where vaping and smoking is prohibited, what vaping and smoking means, and enhance penalties for violations."
Dr. Norman Edelman, a pulmonologist and professor with Stony Brook Medicine, said public health measures that regulate smoking have been successful elsewhere, citing a ban on public smoking in New York City that has shown “dramatic success.”
“It would appear from these studies that secondhand smoke may cause heart attacks in people who have preexisting heart disease. So not only did heart attacks go down, but the number of people smoking in general went down,” he said.
Studies have shown that inhaling enough secondhand smoke can cause health maladies such as chronic bronchitis and chronic lung-disease, he said, although it's unclear whether it causes lung cancer.
For cannabis specifically, a 2018 state assessment predicted mixed and nuanced public health impacts, Newsday has reported, including a potential reduction in opioid deaths and therapeutic benefits, along with possible lung damage for smokers and negative mental health effects for some regular users.
For those nearby, secondhand cannabis smoke may pose a greater potential health risk if inhaled inside, experts have said.
Islip law now prohibits the use of tobacco or cannabis products, including by smoking or vaping, in and around all town-owned buildings and facilities, as well as Islip beaches, parks and other recreation areas.
No residents spoke at a public hearing before the resolution was passed.
New York already prohibits the smoking of tobacco and vape products in nearly all indoor and some outdoor public areas and workplaces but allows local bodies to pass stronger legislation. For infractions at the state level, offenders can be fined up to $2,000 per violation.
State laws permit the smoking or vaping of cannabis for adults in most places where smoking is already allowed, although the drug is banned from consumption in motor vehicles, hookah and cigar bars, businesses, restaurants, federal property, and most public and state parks, including beaches.
Suffolk County also has taken a tough stance on smoking, with bans on the practice in most public areas.
Islip voted to opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries within town boundaries in 2021 after recreational marijuana was legalized in New York earlier that year.