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Long Island Village Divided Over Proposed Ban On Vape Stores, Hookah Lounges

LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- As officials target vape stores and hookah lounges in one Long Island community, owners and patrons of those shops claim it's unfair discrimination.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, two dozen vape shops and hookah lounges have opened across Long Island's South Shore in the past year. The Village of Lindenhurst wants to put on the brakes, with a controversial proposal to ban all e-cigarette stores, medical marijuana dispensaries and water-pipe smoke shops. 

Village officials decided to take action after hearing complaints from parents of children who passed by some of the lounges on their way to and from school and the local library.

John Lappas, who helps manage the store Clean Vapor, calls the proposed crackdown a Big Brother-type move.

"I don't think it's anything to be afraid of," he said. "It's 21 and up to purchase anything here."

E-cigarette user Leo Pensa claims the devices are merely a stress reducer.

"On Long Island, there's a big drug problem pretty much," he said. "We should just crack down more on harmful drugs than e-cigarettes."

"Or what about the underage drinking that sometimes happens in the bars on the strip?" added Christina Martin, who also uses e-cigarettes. "What about that? Why are you focusing on this industry?"

Martin said she believes vaping helped her break her addiction to cigarettes.

"I was a pack-a-day smoker at the time that I quit, and I was 18," she said. "And I haven't touched a single one since."

New Lindenhurst Mayor Mike Lavorata said the jury is still out on health risks and he wants a safe and family-friendly environment

"We want people to walk our downtown and not have to look at vape stores," he said. "In my opinion, vape stores and hookah bars and things of this nature just don't fit in with the downtown we're looking to create."

If the ban is to go through, a law must be created and a public hearing held. The first chance for debate is 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lindenhurst Village Hall.

If the law is enacted, already-established vape stores and hookah lounges would not have to close, but no new ones could open and no medical marijuana dispensaries would be welcome in Lindenhurst.

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