By: Anthony Leon and Quari Alleyne
A bill which would ban smoking in multi-family complexes, and a second, similar one, which would ban smoking within 50 feet of an air intake vent, went to vote at a Suffolk County Health Committee meeting on Feb. 27 in Riverhead.
The first bill, which is sponsored by Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, would be the first of its kind in New York to ban smoking in multi-family complexes. The second bill, which is sponsored by Legislator Tom Cilmi, would clarify pre-existing law.
Both bills, which were tabled, are set to go to the full Suffolk County legislature at the next health committee meeting on March 12, but amendments need to be made.
“I would be ok with it honestly,” Joshua Sosa, an employee at Kava Village Smoke Shop, said. “The cigarette smell does linger and it can definitely go to the adjacent building or apartments, even below. The apartment complex across the street from me, they don’t allow smoking up to a certain distance, so if you want to smoke a cigarette or cigar, you have to be outside of the property pretty much.”
“Well, I don’t smoke inside my apartment so I don’t want anyone else to smoke inside of the apartments as well,” Gaurang Patel, an employee at Jim’s Smoke Shop II, said.
“There are some who would say that a terrace or a patio is not part of the ‘building’ and some that would say it is,” Cilmi said. “My bill seeks to clarify that and it seeks a compromise. It says that if there’s a public intake vent then it’s included within that 50 feet prohibition.”
The current law in Suffolk County bans smoking within 50 feet of a multi-dwelling building.
“If you walk around the units, I’ve never seen an intake unit on the first floor outside of any multi-dwelling area,” Gonzalez said. “All air-intake units are on the roof and they are normally on the roof.”
Legislator Gonzalez believes Legislator Cilmi’s bill doesn’t do enough to address the issue.
“It’s nice but it’s not helping,” Legislator Gonzalez said. “You’re smoking on your patio or your balcony, the smoke will get in through a window. It just happens that way. It’s happening now and it’s awful. It does nothing to help people that live in these apartments that are breathing in secondhand smoke.”
Comparing the two bills, Cilmi said, “The key differences are basically that my bill continues to allow for smoking within one’s residence. Legislator Gonzalez’s bill prohibits smoking all together indoors in a multi-dwelling building.”
Secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths and 400 infant deaths in the United States every year, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 2019, around 12.8% of New Yorkers were smokers. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, lung cancer, or stroke.
The legal definition of smoking is the combustion of any cigar, cigarette, tobacco or any similar article or any other combustible substance in any manner or in any form for the heating or ignition of an e-cigarette which creates a vaper, Cilmi said.
Both smoke bills will be voted on by the full legislature on March 12 at the next Suffolk County Health Committee meeting. It will take place at the William H. Rogers Suffolk County Legislature building in Smithtown.