Health & Wellness

Westfield Board of Health Approves Ordinance Requiring Electronic Cigarette Vendors to Buy Licenses

Members of Westfield's Board of Health discuss new initiatives at Monday night's meeting. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio

WESTFIELD, NJ – The Westfield Board of Health approved an ordinance Monday night that would require businesses selling electronic smoking devices to purchase a license, with proceeds reviving its tobacco age-of-sale enforcement program.

Megan Avallone, health director for the Westfield Regional Health Department, proposed the measure in hopes of creating a trust fund with the license fees and using that to pay for a tobacco age-of-sale enforcement program, which uses underage teens to go into stores to try to buy cigarettes. Westfield had such a program but lost funding for it about five years ago.

The sale of electronic cigarettes has surged in recent years, but the sale of such devices remains unregulated. While the product does not contain tobacco, it delivers nicotine to users.

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Avallone noted that electronic cigarettes are often flavored to appeal to teens.

If the age-of-sale enforcement program is reinstated, it will target sales of electronic cigarettes, as well as traditional tobacco products.

With the ordinance approved, the board’s next step is to inform vendors of the measure and to hold a public hearing on the issue, slated for its next meeting on June 2.

No fines would be issued in the first 60 days that the ordinance is in place, allowing businesses time to get up to speed. The board discussed charging $200 for the license.

Board members also debated an ordinance that would make property owners responsible for cleaning up sewage blockages caused by clogged grease traps in restaurants. This comes on the heels of an incident last month near 11 East Broad Street in which a clogged grease trap led to a back-up in the sewer line.

The source of the clog was unclear, but grease traps at nearby Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe, Five Guys, Hunan Wok III and Chipotle were inspected after the back-up and were sufficiently clean. All four restaurants had receipts to show recent cleanings of their grease traps as well.

Television cameras are often lowered into the sewer line to detect the origin of a clog.

“The back-up itself is usually in the street and then the sewer backs up,” said Avallone.

Currently, the Department of Public Works is responsible for remediating a sewer back-up.

“How much more of a burden is imposed on property owners than it is now?” asked board member Mitchell Beinhaker.

The ordinance “switches the burden from the town and taxpayer to the owner of the property that is causing the problem,” Avallone responded.

Avallone has given a copy of the proposed model ordinance to the township administrator for him to refer to the appropriate committee on the town council.

The board also revisited several initiatives they would like to address in 2014 that were up for discussion at its April meeting, including educating the public about prescription drug abuse and making parks and recreation facilities smoke free.

This month, the Westfield Police Department will get a drop-box for expired prescription drugs, said Board President Dr. Lawrence Budnick. One is already in place at the county police headquarters on North Avenue.

“The worst is putting it down the drain,” Budnick said. “The sewage system can’t handle prescription drugs.”

Board members also voted to resend a 2012 resolution to the town council strongly encouraging making parks and recreation facilities smoke free, even without the input of the Recreation Commission. The board has been waiting a year for the commission to make a similar recommendation before the issue is brought to the council.

Lastly, Avallone told the board that she has spoken with the town’s attorney about posting vaccination rates at childcare facilities, an idea floated at last month’s meeting. She hopes to have the attorney’s response by the June meeting.

Budnick reiterated the need for parents to be aware of immunization rates when seeking childcare.

“Mumps is coming back. Measles is coming back. Pertussis is on the rise,” he said.

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