By Danny Schrafel
No smoking in all of its incarnations may be the law of the land in many Huntington places where children congregate.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson has introduced legislation to add electronic cigarettes to the list of products banned at town beaches and playgrounds. The list already includes tobacco and herbal cigarettes, pipes and cigars.
The town board will hold a public hearing June 9 at 7 p.m. on the matter. If adopted, the ban on “vaping,” or the act of smoking an e-cigarette, would go into effect as soon as the bill is filed with New York’s Secretary of State.
“We already banned smoking in the parks, so it was a natural follow-up,” Cuthbertson said.
County law since 2010 has restricted the sale of e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but not tobacco, to those old enough to buy tobacco, which is 21 years old. County law has also prohibited the use of e-cigarettes in any indoor public place where smoking is banned. Vaping has been banned at county parks and beaches since late 2012, following the adoption of legislation sponsored by Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport).
Some have argued the electronic devices are safer than tobacco cigarettes and could be used as a smoking cessation aid, but Dr. Stephen Dewey, director of the Laboratory for Behavioral and Molecular Neuroimaging at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and a professor at the Hofstra-North Shore LIJ School of Medicine and NYU’s School of Medicine, said that’s not the case.
One known detrimental impact of vaping, he said, is a decreased immune response. However, other impacts – to those who vape and those who breathe the vapors second-hand – are largely a mystery, said Dewey, who has delved into researching vaping in recent years.
“My concern is that it’s so controversial. We don’t know enough,” he said.
Dewey said the most intriguing part of the practice’s rise is the fact that young people often feel it is a safe alternative to tobacco smoking. He likened it to once-pervasive opinions that cigarette smoking was safe, even beneficial, in the middle of the 20th century.
In the meantime, he said, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry on e-cigarettes.
“I always err on the side of a lack of knowledge doesn’t mean it’s bad, but a lack of knowledge doesn’t mean it’s good or benign,” he said.