Proposed Nassau bill would place vaping products behind counter

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A ban on vaping products, seen here at a Mineola gas station off Jericho Turnpike, was delayed by the state Appellate Division Thursday. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

A proposed Nassau County bill to require e-cigarette and vaping products to be sold behind the counter along with other tobacco products passed unanimously through the Rules and the Health and Social Services committees on Monday and will head to a vote by the full Legislature.

The bill is sponsored by the Legislature’s Republican majority and has the support of Democratic County Executive Laura Curran.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) called it a “companion bill” to the recent law change that hiked the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The tobacco age rise passed unanimously in the Legislature in May after Republicans blocked the bill for years.

Nicolello had said the increase in teens vaping was one reason some lawmakers changed their position.

“It’s very clear that some in the industry are targeting kids with their products,” Nicolello said.

Almost five times as many high school students in New York state use e-cigarettes as  smoke cigarettes – and while the smoking rate among youth in the state is at a record low the rate of e-cigarette use doubled between 2014 an 2016, according to the state Department of Health.

The bill would include vaping products in restrictions that already exist on tobacco, limiting where in a store the products are sold and their proximity to candy, Nicolello said.

“That’s a measure designed to make sure it’s treated as a product that can be harmful, especially for young people,” Nicolello said.

Workers at the Conoco gas station off Jericho Turnpike in Mineola which currently sells vaping products on a counter display near candy, said they’d move their products behind the counter as soon as the law passed.

The station owner was not available to comment on the proposal on Tuesday.

Nick Shah, the owner of the Citgo gas station on Hillside Avenue in Williston Park, said all of his tobacco products, including, vaping products, are already sold behind the counter.

If passed, stores that violate the law would pay a fine up to $1,250.

Any fines collected will go toward the Nassau County Department of Health’s anti-smoking education efforts.

Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) said he doesn’t anticipate any opposition to the GOP-backed bill.

Drucker was a big proponent of the tobacco age hike, a measure his predecessor, the late Judy Jacobs, tried to push through for years.

“Anything we can do to reduce this epidemic of electronic tobacco smoking is helpful,” Drucker said. “… No one thing in particular is the magic bullet, but every little bit helps.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Klar by email at rklar@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 204, or follow her on Twitter @rebeccaklar_.

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