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Suffolk County Executive Bellone Signs Legislation to Increase Penalties on Sale Of Electronic Cigarettes To Minors

LongIsland.com

An alarming number of reports have recently chronicled the dramatic increase in e-cigarette use among teenagers.

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Suffolk County, NY - December 20, 2018 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today signed legislation into law that will strengthen penalties on tobacco retailers who are charged with unlawfully selling nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, to persons under 21 years of age. Retailers in violation of the law will now be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,000 for each subsequent violation.
 
“After years of a steady decline in nicotine addiction, the introduction of vaporizers that are targeted to children has reversed this trend and is back on the rise,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “By increasing penalties, we are sending a clear message that we will not tolerate anyone who sells these harmful products to our children and they will be held fully accountable.”
 
An alarming number of reports have recently chronicled the dramatic increase in e-cigarette use among teenagers. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that e-cigarette use among high school students spiked 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. The devices are now more popular among teenagers than traditional cigarettes, largely due to fruity flavors that make them more appealing to young people.  In 2014, 73 percent of high school students and 56 percent of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time. Additionally, this week, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on e-cigarette use among youth which stated current e-cigarette use among high school students increased 78% during the past year.
 
The Suffolk County Police Department employs a number of methods to ensure tobacco and e-cigarette vendors comply with the Suffolk County Health Code for sale of nicotine products. This includes undercover sting investigations to ensure lawful safe of all nicotine products. Earlier this year, the Suffolk County Police Department announced the results of an investigation, which saw arrests at 21 percent of the establishments visited, where store operators sold to minors. Charges include unlawfully dealing with a child and the sale of e-cigarettes to persons less than 21 years of age. To date, more than 280 compliance checks have been conducted at vape shops in Suffolk County.
 
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker said: “Smoking liquid nicotine through an electronic cigarette or other device can be harmful to your health, and with the intense marketing of the product, young people are enticed to try it without being aware of the risks. The use of e-cigarettes has become rampant among teens and preteens, causing them to become addicted to nicotine at an early age. Not only can it be deadly, but the cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde has also been found in this product. The increased fines for retailers who sell to those who are underage is another way in which Suffolk County can continue to protect the health of our residents and better prevent them from being introduced to other addictive drugs.”
 
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, ““The sale of electronic cigarettes to people under the age of 21 is a crime that has negative health effects on minors and it’s an enforcement issue the Suffolk County Police Department takes seriously,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “The Suffolk County Police Department will continue to do its part and hold vape shops accountable while educating students, parents, and community members about the dangers of vaping.”
 
Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Suffolk County Department of Health Services said, “We think it is vital to prevent children from accessing e-cigarettes so they don’t become addicted to e-cigarettes and possibly combustible cigarettes so they don’t develop the associated diseases that can reduce their longevity as well as their quality of life.”