Pleasantville Forum Lays Out Risks of Vaping for Youth

Left to right, Student Assistance Services Assistant Director Judy Mezey, Dr. Richard Stumacher, a pulmonary disease specialist from Northern Westchester Hospital and Maureen Kenney, director of POW’R Against Tobacco.

While summer is often a time for relaxation and vacation, some Pleasantville community members have dedicated their time educating neighbors about the dangers a downtown vape shop may bring to the village and children.

Since it was announced that The Glass Room would move into 69 Wheeler Ave. earlier this summer, local officials have collaborated to raise awareness on the negative effects of vaping while also trying to strengthen regulations regarding the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping chemicals. The shop opened about two weeks ago.

Pleasantville STRONG hosted a discussion last Wednesday evening at Pleasantville High School featuring a panel of experts to help guide parents on tobacco prevention, the wide variety of vaping devices, health risks, current trends regarding youth use and policies.

“In 2016 there (were) more students reporting the use of e-cigarettes than reporting the use of cigarettes,” said Judy Mezey, assistant director for community based programs for Student Assistance Services, an organization that provides substance abuse prevention and early intervention services. “The surgeon general reports that e-cigarette use among high school students (had) increased an astounding 900 percent from 2011 to 2015. So that is just really alarming to those of us in the prevention field.”

Mezey warned parents that a variety of innocent-looking devices could be used to smoke marijuana. While youngsters might say the product they’re consuming is water vapor, it may not be. She cautioned that many devices are disguised to look like regular household items, such as a coffee mug, a USB device and an inhaler.

“It is really horrifying what is out there in plain view of our kids and what’s easily accessible to our kids,” said Maureen Kenney, director of POW’R Against Tobacco, a community partnership of the New York State Tobacco Control Program that is funded through a grant to the American Lung Association of the Northeast, which serves the lower Hudson Valley.

“The tobacco industry has made it more convenient for people to pick up a product that kills more than half of its users than it is to go get a coffee,” she added.

There are more than 7,000 e-cigarette flavors on the market, including Fruit Loops and gummy bears. Dr. Richard Stumacher, a pulmonary disease specialist from Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, said the flavors attract teens to vaping.

He said while the medical community remains divided on the health effects of vaping, e-cigarettes and vaping liquid are products aimed toward youths. Inhaling the flavored chemicals could lead to disease.

“There’s absolutely no acceptable reason any youth or adolescent should be vaping in any way, shape or form, whether or not it’s nicotine or not nicotine,” Stumacher said. “I don’t care that it is just water vapor and it tastes good. Eat Rice Krispies, don’t smoke the Rice Krispies.”

Stumacher said regardless of the flavors, people aren’t meant to inhale chemicals, which can cause problems. He suggested parents maintain an ongoing but easy-going conversation instead of lecturing if they are concerned that their children may be attracted to vaping or e-cigarettes.

With the new shop in close proximity to Pleasantville schools, Kenney said that municipalities have the right to create laws that prohibit a smoke shop from being within a certain distance of a school.

In early August, the Pleasantville Board of Education passed a resolution recommending the village board change the zoning code to restrict vape shops from opening near places frequented by youngsters such as schools. The school board also called for raising the age for legally purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.

During the Aug. 28 village board work session, village trustees discussed regulations that could be enacted to prevent an explosion of similar stores. While a zoning restriction was discussed to create a section in the code for age-appropriate stores, the board agreed increasing the age to buy tobacco products would be better suited for a close-knit community such as Pleasantville.

“I don’t want any area in this town to be considered less desirable than others,” village Trustee Colleen Griffin Wagner said. “That’s just not the message I think we want to send to our businesses.”

Trustees also discussed creating a law that would restrict smoking in certain areas of the village, including public parks.