Jersey City Council passes citywide ban on sale of flavored e-cigarettes

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The Jersey City Council passed an ordinance last night banning the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes, making the city the first in the state to do so.

Photo via Flickr, Lindsay Fox.

By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View

The ordinance, which passed 8 -1, specifically bans the sale flavored electronic cigarettes, which can be purchased in vape shops as well as convenience stores and local bodegas.

Council members Joyce Watterman, Denise Ridley and Jermaine Robinson introduced the ordinance in November after they said they had spoken with teachers, parents and other officials with the local school board who said there is a rise in use among school-aged children.

“When we started this, we knew it was an issue but I didn’t know how big of an issue it was. We were getting a big push from Jersey City public schools teachers and parents,” Ridley said.

“It is a big issue that we have to tackle and figure out what to do and we’re hoping that by banning this it will reduce some of the appeal and reduce some of the access to the younger kids.”

Council members admitted, however, that the ban would likely “devastate” vape shops and other small businesses.

” … But in the face of all of that we know that there is mounting evidence … of the harmful effects of these,” Council President Rolando Lavarro explained.

Prior to the ordinance’s passing, several people urged the council to vote down the ordinance.

Jehad Zeidan, a local vape shop owner in the city, said that the city should enforce laws already on the books, such as adding higher fines to those caught selling to minors, and that the ordinance’s passing would only “push customers to the next town over.”

“A flavor ban in Jersey City would decimate every vape shop, and all of the other businesses that are in that supply chain — manufacturers, distributors,” he said.

“There are some that are located in Jersey City and you would essentially be putting all of these companies out of business and eliminating jobs and tax revenue.”

“The way to combat this is not with a flavor ban, but with enforcing the laws that are already in place… making them more stringent, making higher fines for anyone who is caught selling to minors,” he added.

Still, others in the audience spoke to the growing use of the smoking devices among teens and even children.

Yoku Crantsil, a coalition coordinator with the Hudson County Coalition for a Drug Free Community, said that they are finding “a growing number” of young kids using the products.

The New York City Council recently passed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

The New Jersey state legislature, meanwhile, has been considering a statewide ban for some time, and there is conjecture that the state could move to ban flavored e-cigarettes sometime in January 2020.

A number of states across the country have banned the smoking devices in the wake of recent reports of health hazards, including Montana and Massachusetts.

Council members moved forward with the ordinance, and gave 90 days for local businesses to phase out the product.

In the end not everyone was on board with the move — Councilman Rich Boggiano called the ordinance “useless and unenforceable,” and said it should be up to the state to institute this sort of ban.

“All you have to do is walk to union city or go to Secaucus or Kearny … if something like this is going to happen it should be state wide,” he said. “Let them solve this problem.”

Additionally, the council also moved to terminate a tax abatement for a stalled West Side Avenue development after the developer failed to be in compliance with local laws.

The 20-year tax abatement was first awarded to the developer, 305 West Side Urban Renewal LLC, in 2016. They then broke ground on the property, at the corner of West Side Avenue and Fisk Street, in August 2017.

But the development stalled, and has neglected to to contribute the more than $24,000 to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as mandated under their financial agreement.

“Nobody wants to see a project fail, so we gave (the developer) some space to try and get this done and unfortunately now their delinquent,” Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said. “It’s unfortunate because this property and the lot adjacent to it have been vacant for many years.”

After the abatement’s termination, Mayor Steve Fulop tweeted the city was “going through each” of the city’s abatements.

“Many date back years. Bottom line: why should we fulfill a commitment to the developer in a tax abatement if they aren’t doing what they committed to do for #JerseyCity – #cancel,” he said.

 

Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_

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