Legislation may prohibit nicotine and tobacco retailers within 500 feet of child-based institutions. Video by Dan Reiner/lohud Wochit
NEW ROCHELLE – Smoke and vape shops could soon be banned from school zones as a result of an idea pitched by a group of students to City Council.
The city is proposing legislation that would prohibit tobacco and nicotine-specific stores from opening within 500 feet of daycare and youth centers, schools and playgrounds.
“The recent proliferation of vape, e-cig and similar businesses poses a new challenge for public health in that the mechanism used to consume the products can be much more enticing to the youth than traditional methods for tobacco use,” the legislation reads. “These new products often include an electronic component, with lights and other features that make these like a toy or other electronic device often get the attention of youth.”
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The idea was recommended to City Council by members of the Boys & Girls Club participating in Civics Day in March, when young students spent the day shadowing various members of government.
“We were driving by the high school once and I saw these vapor stores and smoke shops,” said Abigail Rittenberg, a fourth grade student at George M. Davis Elementary who came up with the proposal. “Kids might be getting the idea to want to smoke.”
There are at least five smoke and vape shops in New Rochelle, including two within a mile of the city’s high school. City code already prohibits tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of child-based institutions.
Commissioner of Development Luiz Aragon said the Civics Day participants presented a formal recommendation to the city that it took seriously. He said the goal is to keep tobacco shops away from school zones, but still letting them operate in business districts.
“We’re just trying to create a reasonable buffer from schools without creating a buffer that’s so big that it just eliminates all of downtown,” Aragon said.
But some local business owners don’t think the law is necessary.
Al DeBara, owner of Smoke 4 Less at 529 Main St., said he feels targeted by the legislation because of the negative image associated with smoking tobacco and nicotine products. He said he wouldn’t sell his products to minors, so it shouldn’t matter where a vape shop is located.
Tobacco bongs being sold at Smoke 4 Less at 529 Main St. in New Rochelle. (Photo: Dan Reiner/The Journal News)
“500 feet or 10,000 feet, what difference does it make?” DeBara said. “If I’m not going to sell it to you, I could be in the school cafeteria but you’re not getting it.”
He argued that it’s unfair to restrict smoke and vape shops while delis and other stores can sell tobacco products and alcohol near schools.
Aragon confirmed that the proposed law only pertains to tobacco and nicotine-specific retailers.
A public hearing will be held July 11 to discuss the proposal.
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