I have a 4-year-old who will soon be attending elementary school here in Delmar, and I can’t think of anything more important than his health and safety.
That’s why I was extremely disappointed when my colleagues on the Town Board recently approved a moratorium on vape shops that may initially sound good and appeal to us nervous parents, yet, in reality does little to nothing to protect our kids from underage vaping.
Some of the many problems with the moratorium become apparent when we begin to understand what the moratorium does, and, more importantly, does not do. Let me elaborate.
First, in Bethlehem, and in fact all of Albany County, the sale of tobacco and vape products to anyone under 21 years of age is already illegal. The moratorium on new vape shops in Bethlehem does nothing to address the fact that, despite this ban against underage sales, middle school and high school students still somehow obtain vaping products.
How you may ask?
Teens can easily order the products online or purchase them by making a quick trip outside of Bethlehem to visit some unscrupulous businesses. The moratorium does absolutely nothing to restrict or address those sales.
Moreover, and perhaps more concerning, many parents seem to be under the misimpression that the moratorium will put a six month halt to any new stores selling vape products or keep them out of our community entirely.
The problem is, the moratorium doesn’t actually do that. You see, many shops, such as gas stations and convenience stores that regularly sell vape and other tobacco products do not fall under the narrow legal definition of a vape shop and are therefore not subject to the moratorium.
Consequently, even with the moratorium in place, a new convenience store could open next to your child’s school tomorrow and sell ice cream cones and soda right alongside cigarettes and vape products.
All the store names that are probably popping into your head right now — well — sorry to break it to you, but those aren’t technically vape shops so the moratorium doesn’t relate to them. There are already convenience stores in town selling vape products and they will continue to do business as usual—and more are likely to open.
As we know, protecting the health and safety of our children is probably the most important thing any of us can do.
That’s why I truly wish the moratorium was actually going to help keep our kids safe and prevent underage vaping, but it doesn’t. Perhaps what is worst about this legislation is that it has fooled many of us into thinking that we’ve done something meaningful to help tackle the very real problem of underage vaping.
We have not.
We have only wasted valuable time and energy that could have been spent more productively by cracking down on illegal sales, talking with and educating our children about the potential health risks associated with vaping, and giving our kids the tools to make smart, healthy choices throughout their lives.
Bethlehem Town Board Member