WESTFIELD, NJ — You will no longer be able to buy vaping products at convenience stores, liquor stores and gas stations in this town under a new law aimed at keeping e-cigarettes away from youths.
Establishments licensed to sell food, gasoline or alcohol are prohibited from also selling e-cigarettes under the new regulations approved Monday. The Board of Health approved the local law over the objections of several shop owners who spoke during a public hearing on the measure. The new rules take effect immediately.
“Middle schoolers are getting access to these products,” said Megan Avallone, director of the Westfield Regional Health Department. “And the studies have shown that the younger they are when they get access to these products, the more likely they are to become addicted to cigarettes.”
While convenience stores, liquor stores and gas stations could theoretically apply for licenses to sell vaping products, doing so would eliminate their rights to sell their primary products, according to the regulation.
The owners of both the South Avenue and the Central Avenue 7-Eleven objected to the new law on the basis that their stores require the identification of all people who purchase e-cigarettes to be electronically scanned for age verification.
“They’re following the law,” said one owner, who afterward declined to give his name, citing a corporate policy requiring permission for public statements. “They’re doing everything right. They’re making sure the kids don’t get them.”
Board of Health President Lawrence Budnick said the health department has previously fined establishments for selling e-cigarettes to youths. While Budnick did not name specific establishments, he said, local health officials caught violators by employing underage confederates in sting operations.
“It’s public record … we know,” Budnick said.
Board member Sharon Dorry, who is a school nurse at Roosevelt Intermediate School, said a recent survey of an intermediate school grade in Westfield found 35% of the students vape. Dorry supports the new regulations.
“It might seem like a very small step in a huge problem, but as a person who lives here and has for over 20 years, I would like to see us be on the forefront of preventing these lung diseases,” Dorry said.
The stricter regulations in Westfield come shortly after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law banning the sale of flavored vape products. That law goes into effect this May. It also follows an nationwide outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of vaping products.
Shops selling e-cigarettes in Westfield will also have to pay a $1,000 annual licensing fee under the new law. Avallone has said the Westfield Regional Health Department is either in the process of or intends to have the regulations approved in the seven other municipalities it also serves.
Owner of Westfield Tobacco & News Harry Houshyary, who had previously anticipated he would be selling vapes, learned he would no longer be allowed to sell vapes and also keep the food license under which he sells candy and beverages.
“What am I going to do?” Houshyary said. “What can I do?”
Click here to view the full regulation.
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