Dunne And King Sweeney Unveil New Signs Addressing The Increase In Vaping Amongst Teens, Announce New Task Force

Issued by: Council Member Dennis Dunne

Councilman Dennis Dunne and Councilwoman Erin King unveiled new signs that will be placed in all Hempstead Town Parks, announcing that vaping is prohibited. These signs are part of a multi-prong approach, led by Councilman Dunne, to address concerns about e-cigarette/vape use in teens.

Hempstead Town passed legislation in 2010 banning smoking in Town Parks. Though it was not as common of an issue at that time, the legislation also included vape pens/ e-cigarettes but signage only stated “Smoking Prohibited.”  Now, with the proliferation of vaping among young people, Dunne and King Sweeney directed the Parks Department to adapt the signs to make it clear that vaping and smoking are not allowed at Hempstead Town Parks.

“These signs which make it clear that vaping is prohibited are a great first start but we are well aware that they are only part of what is needed to try to combat vape use by teens,” said Dunne. “We are starting here because this is one easy solution but we are working with other levels of government and concerned citizens to attack this issue on a larger scale.”

E-cigarettes, more commonly referred to as vapes, are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid — usually containing nicotine mixed with the chemicals propylene glycol and glycerin, and often flavorings ranging from bubble gum to watermelon — into a vapor that users can inhale. They deliver nicotine, a highly addictive drug, to the body without producing any smoke.

This signage is a suggestion that came about at an initial meeting that Dunne held with various entities, including school officials and counseling facilities to discuss ways in which to address the problem of young people using vape products. This meeting also led to Dunne developing a Task Force in an effort to attack the problem with a multi-prong approach.

“I commend Councilman Dunne for his efforts to address this frightening new trend by bringing all the concerned parties to the table to work to create viable solutions,” said King Sweeney. “Public awareness has significantly decreased the use of traditional cigarettes and I am confident that these signs and the Councilman’s task force will achieve that same goal with e-cigarettes.”

Between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General found e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 900 percent, with more teens now using e-cigarettes than cigarettes. E-cigarette or “Vape” companies intentionally market products that are attractive to young people by having fun flavors and making them appear like a flash drive or pen that can easily be hidden from parents and school officials. Many students do not even realize that the products they are using contain nicotine. The products can even be easily purchased by kids online. These products are also being used to smoke illegal substances such as marijuana.

In December 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a groundbreaking report "E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults" that made a number of important conclusions and findings about the use of e-cigarettes among youth. These included that the flavors in e-cigarettes are one of the main reasons youth use them, e-cigarette aerosol is not safe and that e-cigarette use is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults. In initial lab tests conducted in 2009, the FDA found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 different cartridges. Early studies have also revealed that when propylene glycol or glycerin are heated and vaporized, they can degrade into formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Both of these chemicals are considered carcinogens. The Surgeon General concluded that e-cigarette use among youth is now a significant public health concern and steps must be taken by parents, educators and especially policymakers to discourage use of e-cigarettes.

Hempstead Town is limited by New York State law in its ability to legislate vape use or sale but Councilman Dunne has not let that deter his determination to increase awareness and protect children from the dangers associated with vaping.

“I have heard so many terrible stories of kids, even athletes, who have started using vape products and have gone down a slippery slope,” said Dunne. “The health of our children is at stake. That is why I am not taking no for an answer. We are lobbying New York State to give us more jurisdiction to address this problem and we are working on several different ideas to increase awareness about the dangers of vape use.”  

Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and Councilman Dennis Dunne are joined by Mike Nelson, President of the Levittown/Island Trees Youth Council and member of the Levittown Community Action Coalition as they inspect the newly installed park sign at Seaman’s Neck Park, which declares that vaping is prohibited at Town Parks. These signs are being installed at all Hempstead Town Parks.