Few attendees but strong sentiments at public hearing
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Philipstown’s Town Board on Wednesday (June 20) unanimously adopted a six-month moratorium on vape shops.
The vote followed a public hearing that drew few attendees but strong anti-vaping comments from those who came. It also occurred two weeks after board members proposed the moratorium, which halts submission of vape shop applications.
The moratorium took effect immediately. Board members plan to use the half-year hiatus to write a permanent law.
Councilor Nancy Montgomery said children and teenagers are increasingly using vaping devices or electronic cigarettes, which can contain nicotine or other harmful substances along with alluring flavors.
“There’s no regulation” of the ingredients, she said. “Prohibiting businesses is not something we’re in the business of doing, but we would like to limit harmful things” that might be sold in town.
Nonetheless, she cautioned that “we have to be very careful as we look at this, to see what we’re allowed to do,” such as possibly “limiting where vape shops can be.”
Supervisor Richard Shea expressed hopes that with the right law, vape shops “can essentially be zoned out of existence.”
Councilor Robert Flaherty raised the issue of e-cig and vape product sales by gas stations and convenience stores. Board members informally agreed they must explore that aspect of the issue, too.
Marianne Sullivan, a Garrison resident and professor of public health at William Paterson University, encouraged the board to adopt the moratorium. “I hope we have a permanent moratorium,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to keep vape products out of the hands of youth.”
The federal government seems unlikely to act, she said, because the Trump administration “has signaled friendliness to the vaping industry.”
Sullivan said one risk of vaping by young people is that it can lead to the use of traditional cigarettes. “Tobacco is the No. 1 public health problem” and a leading cause of death, she said. Teenagers who unwittingly consume nicotine while vaping “can develop an addiction very quickly,” she said.
Although smoking of traditional cigarettes has declined, Philipstown resident Priscilla Goldfarb wondered if “people are stopping smoking and moving over to vaping. How would having a vape shop in town improve the quality of our life here?”
John Cronin, a Cold Spring resident and senior fellow for environmental affairs at Pace University, urged the board to also focus on access to tobacco by minors. “I’m more concerned about kids buying tobacco than alcohol,” he said.
New York and three other states allow minors to legally purchase and/or possess tobacco; it is only illegal for merchants to sell it to them. That means that “only one-half of the transaction is illegal,” he said, and that a 10-year-old can smoke a cigar without violating any law.
He called on municipalities to take action. “The revolution in controlling tobacco is town by town.”
Montgomery agreed. “We can’t wait for other levels of government to do what we need to do,” she said.