By Jano Tantongco
A public hearing during Tuesday’s Huntington Town Board meeting on proposed legislation that would limit where vape and hookah lounges can operate within the township sparked discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of e-cigarette vaping.
The proposal, sponsored by Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, would prevent such lounges from operating within 1,500 feet of parks, playgrounds, religious institutions and schools, or in any building with apartments. It would also limit lounges to one-per-lot, and would only allow them to be operate within C-5 and C-6 commercial districts, or I-1 industrial districts.
Matthew Elliott, representing the Long Island Vape Coalition, said he’s been smoking since he was 8 years old. He is now 23.
“I’ve been on vaping products since then, I’ve not touched a cigarette… and I’ve helped many quit smoking by vaping products,” he said.
Elliot read a statement from West Virginia State Representative Larry William Faircloth that said “we can all agree that smoking is bad,” but he made a distinction with vaping.
“Not only is it a different thing, but millions across the country have been successfully been able to quit smoking by the use of vape products,” Faircloth said in the statement.
Elliot also cited an April report from the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom, which supported vaping as a potential alternative to cigarettes with significantly less risk.
“Large-scale substitution of e-cigarettes, or other non-tobacco nicotine products, for tobacco smoking has the potential to prevent almost all the harm from smoking in society,” the report states.
Responding to another speaker who supported vaping, Councilwoman Susan Berland questioned if vaping was safe, adding that she is an ex-smoker herself.
“[You’re] probably better off if you’re not doing either,” Berland said.
Susan Kennedy, a Huntington resident for over 30 years and director for the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island, argued that vape products have been negatively influencing youth.
“Kids are starting to use vape products, even though they shouldn’t be allowed to get them,” she said. “They consider them safe and they cross over to become smokers.”
Regarding the legislation itself, she claimed the distance prohibition will not impact business. She likened the ban to how cigarettes are already prohibited from such areas.
“We’re also trying to create a norm that doesn’t encourage our young people to start on a life of disease,” Kennedy said. “It’s just a restriction, just try to keep it so it’s out sight and out of places where they can walk by and be interested.”